Summer at the Museum
Since the age of eight, I have spent every summer doing camps at the Houston Museum of Natural Science (HMNS). When I turned thirteen, I became too old for the HMNS camps. But I still found a way to be involved in the camps and the museum: the Moran Ecoteen Volunteer Program.
Being an Ecoteen is a wonderful opportunity for teenagers in the Houston area to spend their summers learning about science and taking on responsibilities to improve their community.
Because the program is so popular, it has a very rigorous acceptance process. To apply, one must submit a teacher recommendation letter, essay, and resume, as well as complete an interview with the Director of the Moran Ecoteen Program. Less than a hundred teens are accepted each year.
It may sound like a lot of effort, but there is a reason so many covet this program. It truly is an amazing experience. Ecoteens participate in many creative and fascinating activities at HMNS.
One such activity is being assigned as an assistant in one for HMNS’s many summer camps. The teen volunteers can spend their week helping the campers have the best time possible at the museum. This helped me improve skills such as adaptability and overseeing others.
Ecoteens can also take part in something called a ‘rotation week’ where they have more control over their schedule. Rotation weeks are mainly for learning demonstrations to show campers or learning exhibit halls to share with campers and patrons.
Personally, my favorite part of the program was working with the camps and helping to implement fun activities that will become cherished memories for the children. The HMNS summer camps really are magical. Some of my favorites included the elaborate Star Warriors graduation and the magic show.
The other part of the program I especially loved was the opportunity to interact with visitors. For at least an hour every day, Ecoteens go up to an exhibit hall and learn about the exhibit. Learning facts about halls has left me with a variety of random knowledge about the Russian Revolution to where the largest porcupine in the world lives, but it was all very entertaining.
I enjoyed approaching museum visitors to tell them about exhibits; not only did it helped improve my public speaking, but it feels great to tell them something they find fascinating.
Another huge draw of the program is the sense of community among the Ecoteens. Everyone you meet is so welcoming and it’s easy to make friends. I found that during the weeks where there aren’t HMNS camps, the Ecoteens get a lot closer because there are less volunteers and everyone is on a rotation week together. Those weeks have a lot of fun traditions like trivia every morning and a potluck on the last day which makes them feel special.
Nina W. said about her time as an Ecoteen at the museum: “Working at HMNS was a fun way to spend my summer after COVID-19 thanks to the social interactions and educational aspects which I learned a lot from.”
I had an amazing time this year at HMNS, and I am so excited to return next year. I hope to see a lot of the friends I made again and meet some new people. Even when I am too old to be an Ecoteen, I hope to stay involved in HMNS in other ways. The museum truly is a wonderful and unique experience that Houston residents are so lucky to have nearby.
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