September 26, 2017
School & Youth
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  • Catherine Woods spent her summer educating guests on the many animals exhibited at the National Aquarium in Baltimore.
    Catherine Woods spent her summer educating guests on the many animals exhibited at the National Aquarium in Baltimore.
  • While she wouldn’t normally consider herself an outgoing person, Catherine Woods thoroughly enjoyed interacting with aquarium guests and providing insight to enhance their experiences.
    While she wouldn’t normally consider herself an outgoing person, Catherine Woods thoroughly enjoyed interacting with aquarium guests and providing insight to enhance their experiences.

Northeast Senior Interns At National Aquarium

Gracie Fairfax
Gracie Fairfax's picture
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August 23, 2017

Northeast High School rising senior Catherine Woods dove into the aquatic world this summer through an internship at the National Aquarium in Baltimore. Each high school in Maryland, as well as some in Virginia and Pennsylvania, receives three applications for the internship to distribute to students of their choosing. Woods’ science teacher at Northeast selected her as one of the students, and she was ultimately the only student from Northeast selected for the program.

While she was working at the aquarium, Woods’ daily routine started with a 30-minute briefing. During this time, the interns chose which of three locations they would spend their shift in. The first choice and ensuing order was determined through different methods such as whose birthday came first in the year.

Once the interns’ locations were decided and the briefing was over, Woods stepped out on the floor for four hours and interacted with aquarium guests.

“Wherever I end up, I’m the exhibit interpreter so … I stand there and I engage with people,” Woods said. “Sometimes people are really receptive and they’ll want to learn more about the exhibit and sometimes people aren’t there to hear you talk, so they just kind of move on, and that’s fine. We’re here for people who want to talk to us.”

Through training, Woods learned a lot about the animals in the aquarium, but it was through talking with people and spending time at the exhibits that she learned the most. While it would be unrealistic to know every tiny fish in the aquarium, the training covered the major animals referred to as “standout animals” and facts that served as answers to common questions. One fact they were required to know was regarding a sea turtle.

“We have to know why she lost a flipper because that is a question we get asked all the time,” Woods said.

Visitors from all over the world stopped into the aquarium for a visit and Woods, who is near fluent in French, was able to use her French-speaking skills to engage with some foreign visitors.

As the aquarium offers an interactive learning experience, Woods enjoyed seeing the curiosity of many visitors and learning from the questions they asked. One child was fascinated with the shark exhibit and asked Woods countless questions throughout her shift – he even wanted to hear the answers to any questions other people asked about sharks.

“It’s really great to have people who want to learn,” Woods said. “It feels like nowadays we don’t want to include learning anything extra in our lives … but it’s really good to stimulate your brain. It’s a muscle and you have to work it.”

Woods, who considers herself a kinetic learner, believes that learning is better done through seeing and interacting with something instead of through textbooks. “I do believe that when you see something, it means something to you,” she said.

As a result of visitors seeing and interacting with animals during their visit, Woods hopes guests will be inspired to advocate on behalf of the animals.

One of Woods’ takeaways was that sharks are not as bad as movies make them out to be.

“You have to remember that if you were in your house and someone just rolled up and walked through the door, you’d be kind of alarmed too,” Woods said of people encountering sharks while in the ocean. She admits she ruins shark movies for her friends because she deems them too unrealistic.

While she thoroughly enjoyed her internship at the aquarium, Woods plans to go a slightly different direction with her studies in college, either by sticking to science with the study of pathology or by applying her passion for language with the study of linguistics.

During her senior year at Northeast, Woods will work part-time as an exhibit interpreter at the aquarium, where she will further expand upon her knowledge and continue sharing what she has learned with others.


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