School Intern Gains Hands-On Environmental Experience


Buttonwood Nature Center, home of The Institute, hosted intern Gracie French, a senior at Waynesboro Area Senior High School, for the spring semester.

Born and raised in the Waynesboro area, French attended many school programs offered by Buttonwood (formerly The Institute). She specifically asked her career advisor to intern with Buttonwood.

“When I knew that I wanted to go into the environmental field, I automatically thought of them,” French said. “I always enjoyed their programs from elementary school, so I thought it would be the perfect fit for me.”

French worked with Buttonwood’s watershed science coordinator, Mary Claire King to help with the Water Striders program, a watershed science study group comprised of middle and high school students. She worked with the students as they conducted water quality testing for Antietam Watershed Association (AWA). 

She also used game cameras to capture photos of animal species that live on the nature center property. Some of the animals she recorded include many different kinds of birds, groundhogs, turkeys, raccoons, skunks, a fox, a lot of deer—and some house cats, including Hiker (Buttonwood’s resident feline). 

Other intern duties included working with Buttonwood’s director of education, Pam Rowland. French assisted with school programs and community events, was involved in setting up the monthly StoryWalk® trail at Pine Hill Recreation Area and began an inventory of Buttonwood’s library.

“I enjoyed everything I worked on during my internship, but my absolute favorite was sitting in on the school programs,” French said. “I could see the kids really enjoying themselves and was reminded of things they were learning that I had forgotten over the years.”

In the fall, French will attend Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa. where she will study environmental science.

“Through telling everybody about what I got to do at my internship each day, I really have found a path I want to continue following.”

For more information about the nature center or internship programs, visit, or email Pam Rowland, director of education at [email protected].

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