Although The Uplands Center is not hosting retreats this summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are thrilled to be hosting two fantastic interns. One of our many aspirations at The Uplands is to provide environmental programming to retreat guests and community members. Our interns are on board to help launch a variety of nature-based projects. They are engaging in ecological research, building a woodland trail that highlights the therapeutic aspects of nature, assisting in garden maintenance and creating garden-focused programs.
Sierra is a recent graduate from Colgate University and majored in Environmental Biology. Our staff was drawn to her not only due to her experience in field identification and past work in a greenhouse, but also for the lens through which she views nature education. Her emphasis on wellness and mindfulness is essential while developing nature trails and garden programs. This summer, she strives to develop opportunities for guests to have meaningful interactions with nature to ultimately elevate environmental consciousness. She enjoys capturing authentic human emotions through her work as a freelance photographer for over 7 years.
Aidan graduated from SUNY-ESF this May with a major in Environmental Education and Interpretation. He explains that while “environmental education” is about sharing knowledge, “environmental interpretation” is about sharing inspiration and connecting guests to the natural world. Aidan is looking forward to building The Uplands’ interpretative trail from the ground up, and is excited to develop other materials such as brochures for our visitors to engage with. Aidan visited TUC last fall as part of a “Nature Tourism and Eco-Tourism” course, and he developed a report on the potential for TUC to implement nature trails. He has a great deal of experience in nature education, and has volunteered on a farm in the past.
Q&A with the interns
Why did you choose to join The Uplands team this summer?
Aidan: I was drawn to this internship opportunity mainly because it’s such a grassroots effort. In the past, I worked off of projects that were already built by other people, and I never did an original creation. The Uplands is new in its life cycle, and that is really exciting for me.
Sierra: From the moment I discovered The Uplands, it felt like it resonated with my personal values on all levels. And then to recognize the internship was able to combine those values with my educational interest and passion for ecology & environmentalism… It felt too perfect to not join the team. Plus, it’s in a gorgeous and peaceful location. I wanted to be spending a lot of time outdoors following my college graduation to get connected with the earth and to do more physical work.
How will the work you do this summer change the guest experience at Uplands?
Aidan: I hope it’ll make it more memorable. That’s every interpreter’s goal; to make an experience as memorable as possible.
Sierra: I want to play a part in facilitating meaningful connections in nature. I think that healing our relationship with nature is crucial part of improving our consciousness in general. Both through trail work and programming , I hope to play a role in elevating environmental consciousness and connecting people to nature in a way they may not have experienced before.
What’s it like living at The Uplands so far?
Aidan: It’s fantastic! I can say that confidently. It’s beautiful here, the weather has been incredibly nice, and the living space is wonderful.
Sierra: It’s wonderful. I feel like it’s a dream. I couldn’t have asked for a better location or a better team. The property is breathtaking, and every time I walk around the property I’m in awe that I get to live here for the summer!
What is your favorite spot on the property?
Aidan: This is probably a popular answer, but my favorite spot is the vista shed. It’s such an incredible view.
Sierra: I’m torn between the garden and the cherry grove. I love that the garden, especially at golden hour, offers the most beautiful views and it’s very peaceful. Plus there are nourishing foods all around you. The cherry grove is just very special, very meditative. You just feel like you’re amongst wise beings when you’re surrounded by the trees. The whole landscape is very sacred to me.
What is one of the most memorable experiences you’ve had in nature?
Aidan: When I was 7 years old I went to Fort McHenry in Maryland, where the start spangled banner was written. But the reason I went there was to do an early morning bird walk with a man who runs the environmental inventories. That was one of the first guided hikes I went on, and it was just me and my mom. The experience was super personal and the guide was really knowledgable – he knew so much about birds! It was a pretty big inspirational moment for me.
Sierra: Growing up, all of the camping and hiking and hunting that my sister and I did with our father was incredibly profound and shaped me into the person I am today, especially in my relationship with nature. It’s so crazy to me that there are people who don’t enjoy camping or have never done it, because I think there is something so important and special in going to the forest and settling in for a few days. I’ve always seen nature, the forest in particular, as a place to go for joy and solitude and reflection.