Best Practices: Teen Internships

Learn it Grow it Eat it has recently completed it's fifth summer internship program. Over the five years we have employed 60 youth (46 female) - for many them, their first job opportunities". Over this time the summer program has evolved into its current shape. We have experimented with different formats, tried out different activities and figured out the best ways to motivate and inspire our teen interns. We are confident that this model is highly replicable and look forward to advising other groups in the future who wish to start similar programs. Below is a list of what we consider to be some of our best practices for a 6-week nutrition/environmental education summer youth development project that allow for our interns to explore their environment, community and themselves.

Provide diverse experiences for youth
We set up a program structure that allow youth to explore different gardens and in each garden work on the development of different skills. Our fifteen summer interns are divided into three groups of five. Each group spends two weeks in one of three gardens and then rotates to the next garden. Each garden has a theme. At the Model T Community Garden interns create an outdoor classroom for neighborhood school/day camp children. The interns collaborate to develop and lead small groups of children through garden/plants based activities. At the JDD Community Garden interns learn basic carpentry and cooking skills that they demonstrate at our weekly farmers market and use to prepare a weekly lunch for the entire group of fifteen. At the Wishing Well Community Garden interns learn and hone their gardening skills. They learn to plant from seed and transplants, proper watering techniques, organic gardening strategies, weed identification, how to compost, and when to harvest. The theme of diverse experiences is replicated at our weekly farmers market where each group of five takes turn selling our produce, demonstrating cooking techniques, and providing nutrition education to our customers.

Provide opportunities for youth to contribute to their community
We provide opportunities for the youth to interact and contribute to their community through the running of our farmers market, teaching about healthy/unhealthy eating, cooking, donating unsold food to local food pantries, working with small children and constructing benches and other gardening equipment that we will be used by fellow community gardeners. Working in community gardens - as opposed to a school garden - allows for inter-generational multi-cultural exchanges with other gardeners.

Provide opportunities for youth to create their own community
Interns work together in small groups of five with a designated educator/group leader for two and a half days and work/meet as a larger group at our weekly market and group lunches. In the smaller groups they collaborate and work together, they learn to get along with each other, resolve conflict and make friends. By end of summer they develop a sense of group pride. In the larger groups they share communal meals and experiences.

Provide hands-on, experiential learning opportunities
Many of our interns tell us that they enjoy the summer program because, unlike school, the activities are hands-on and applicable to the real world. They feel that they can learn at their own pace. We try to create a friendly environment for teens who are having difficulties with English or in a traditional academic environment to feel that they can contribute, succeed and learn practical skills that they can use in the future.

Provide opportunities for personal growth
In addition to growing vegetables a key component of our program is growing teenagers into responsible adults. Interns develop non-tangible skills such as patience (while dealing with difficult customers at weekly markets), compassion (working with special needs children), responsibility (coming to work on time), commitment (working through the summer heat), and improved self-esteem (doing things they never thought that they could do such as "talking in front of people")

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  • Food Access & Agriculture

    Our network of Greenmarket farmers markets, Farmstands, and Fresh Food Box pick-ups, coupled with GrowNYC Wholesale, ensures that all New Yorkers have access to the freshest, healthiest local food.

  • Conservation

    We provide food scrap drop-offs, clothing collections, Stop 'N' Swap® community reuse events, and zero waste trainings to make resource conservation easy for all.

  • Green Space

    We build and rejuvenate community & school gardens in all 5 boroughs, and support even more gardens through volunteer days, technical assistance, school garden grants, & more.

  • Education

    We foster future environmental stewards by providing 66,000 children each year with programs that provide meaningful interactions with the natural environment.