There is no doubt summer break is right around the corner, and what better time is it to start planning beach trips, extended hikes, and most importantly internships! Typically, I see a lot of college freshman finishing up their second semester, packing up and heading home to spend their summer with old high school friends. This is where I believe the problem lays. The summer after finishing up the first year of college is vital and is likely spent in a “relaxed state” of mind. This is the time to take the skills learned in the first year and put them to the test!
As educators and as fellow peers, we should be encouraging students and friends to search desperately for summer internships. The opportunity not only opens up a new form of learning in a more professional setting, but also is a good way to travel the country. I find many students who go home every summer and work for the “mom and pop” restaurants, lack the background of other cultures that others learn when traveling. Living in a different area is just as important, if not more important, than the work itself. You learn how to work with and work under people with different personalities. For instance, a girl from West Virginia getting an internship for a large company in New York City, is going to be learning how to quickly jump from task-to-task while staying organized and working with a different array of people.
So, you may be wondering, how does this relate any bit to STEM? Because it proves how much hands-on learning is important, more so VITAL, to extending our knowledge. When being put in the position to preform a certain task, our brain is pushed to new limits, retaining information we could only learn through situational learning and using stored information we didn’t even know we had. Digging deeper than just learning initially what an assignment or kit was supposed to teach, hands-on learning lessons are really important to developing other skills. It’s not just a single lesson, many students most importantly learn how to work with other peers.
Just like group projects in a work setting, classroom labs are a fantastic way for students to learn how to work with one another. I have learned during large assignments or labs, there are many duties or steps that need to be done in a restricted amount of time. Being put in a group setting can be challenging but figure out what each person’s “role” is, makes it 100% simpler. With that being said, this is the most important time to figure out how to assign tasks to each person based on what they are best at. When going into an internship, you are assigned a title. The title is then linked to a job or task. Simple enough?
Solving a crime with given evidence from a kit is exactly like having an internship in a sense. You get your group assigned, or rather so pick your team and then start assigning the tasks. The group information recorder, the assembler, the critical thinker, and the organizer are all needed to be determined. Usually this happens unintentionally. It is amazing to see how groups form in order to finish a certain task! After tasks are assigned, everyone begins working like an assembly line and it (hopefully) is finish correctly.
Through experience, I have noticed when preforming group projects, if my group members have had experience working with other people, we work more efficiently. Just like my observation, companies do the same thing. When in an interview, I was asked if I had been involved in any group assignments and what my role was when placed on a team to complete a project. In my head I immediately thought of countless group projects I had been a part of, specifically my forensic labs. Through each lab, I TRULY learned how to work with all diverse types of people, which then led me to bigger projects because I became more comfortable. It’s all about experience in the end. With each lab I was becoming more comfortable taking the lead, leading to taking on projects willingly. Without the experience in my forensic class working with labs as a group, I don’t think I would have built up my communication and leadership skills as much as how I have. Now, I am not saying that labs are 100% guaranteed to make someone a better leader, but, I do think labs bring out skills that many people don’t even know they have. When skills are then recognized, they can then be put to effective use (aka during a summer internship).
So how to tie this altogether? Group assignments, many times linked to labs, are skill triggers, which means students can begin recognizing personality strengths that future employers look for. When future employers see a wide set of skills from a potential intern, they begin fishing! The best part is, the students who have become more comfortable in group settings are those who begin taking the lead. Those who begin taking the lead, begin setting future goals and find ways to reach those goals. And finally, the students that have narrowed in on their goal driven path, are those applying for and doing summer internships. Just like a lab, it is a step by step procedure. It’s a cycle that begins at the very root: the classroom.
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