Monday, February 10, 2014

TeenNat Provides Workforce Experience Through Real Life Science and Art

By Sandi Funke, Education Director

Across Sonoma County, organizations are opening their doors to provide unique learning opportunities for students. These work-based learning experiences are allowing students to hone their skills as they explore career interests. They are able to apply their knowledge and abilities in real-world settings as they practice so called “soft skills” like critical thinking, communication, and collaboration. Work-based learning experiences are helping ensure that today’s students are prepared to become Sonoma County’s future workforce and that they have the skills required for success.

Motivated by a desire to serve teens and help develop a more diverse workforce able to address our natural resource challenges, last summer Pepperwood launched TeenNat. TeenNat mis a teen internship that teaches youth about natural science careers and exposes them to real science-in-action as they help gather data critical to preserving our area’s rich biodiversity. During the internship, 28 youth learned how to collect biological data using digital cameras and GPS units as well as how to take artistic photographs. These photographs were displayed in Pepperwood’s gallery.  

The data interns collected was uploaded to an online database of species called that is used by researchers across the globe.  TeenNat participants helped our mpreserve management team identify areas on the preserve where invasive species were present and where populations of rare species were located. Our redwood forests were also surveyed and the data collected was sent to Redwood Watch. Time was also spent identifying species, hiking, and learning about careers in the natural sciences. Throughout the program, local scientists and professional photographers were on hand to guide learning and assist with expeditions on the preserve.

"TeenNat is a place where young adults gain hands-on experience in working on a preserve, where we are exposed to various careers such as environmental educators and ecologists. We learned how to use our Canon cameras and how to capture picturesque photographs. We learned how to react when there is a tick on us and how to correctly and safely remove them if we are bitten. We learned how to take the DBH of redwood trees, procuring the first data of Redwood trees for Pepperwood ever. We learned about iNaturalist, the Facebook for naturalists, and how it benefits scientists globally. We learned how to identify some invasive plants such as the yellow star thistle and how to properly dispose them. The amount of information that we learned is extremely vast and seemingly ineffable." 
- TeenNat Intern Tommy Nguyen

This summer, thanks to support from funders including the Kimball Foundation, Save the Redwood League, and Toyota’s TogetherGreen, Pepperwood is again offering the TeenNat internship. Teens ages 13-17, who are interested in spending time outdoors, taking photographs, learning technical skills, and gaining experience collecting data for ongoing scientific research can apply. The internship will run 3 days a week for 5 weeks in July and takes place at Pepperwood’s 3,200 acre nature preserve located off Mark West Springs Rd., adjacent to Safari West in Santa Rosa.  At the completion of the program, the participants keep their new digital camera and fulfill 90 hours of community service. Applications can be obtained at and are due by April 25th
To learn more about Sonoma County Office of Education’s efforts working with businesses to provide workforce experience for teens please visit their website

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