Name: Kylah Fanning
Class Year: 2020
Major: Linguistics (Education minor)
Hometown: Westminster, M.D.
Internship Organization: The Franklin Institute
Job Title: Public Events Intern
If you had told me in February that I would be spending my summer experimenting with the iridescence of bubbles, exploring 3-D augmented reality renderings of planets and moons in our solar system, and helping kids turn balloons and film canisters into rockets, I wouldn’t have believed you. I would have thought I had just heard the description of the coolest job in the world, though.
I have been incredibly lucky to spend the summer as the Public Events Intern at The Franklin Institute. When I found this internship, while scrolling through the Career and Civic Engagement Center’s internship partners, I was delighted. I had loved visiting science museums growing up, and to share that experience with the thousands of visitors for whom The Franklin Institute Public Events team plans events was an exciting prospect.
As an Education minor at Bryn Mawr, the internship has allowed me to explore a realm of the field of education outside of the classroom setting. In fact, “inspire[ing] a passion for learning about science and technology” is the central mission of The Franklin Institute, and that spirit is baked into everything I do at my internship. For every event, we focus on highlighting certain aspects of the museum — the planetarium and astronomy wing during monthly Night Skies events, for example, or the many family-friendly exhibits of the museum during free, monthly Community Nights. We do this by coordinating extensive teams of volunteers and partner organizations to present event-theme-related activities. This summer, the museum has been celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, and I have gotten to reach out to partners who have brought moon-landing-themed activities to events, coordinate schedules for our volunteers and staff during the Institute’s July Community Night, and taught kids visiting the museum how to make and launch rockets from common household items.
The breadth of responsibilities that I have keeps me on my toes, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Somewhat to my surprise, interning at the museum has opened up the world of informal learning to me as a potential career path. I have immensely enjoyed balancing behind-the-scenes work with interacting with guests during events. It turns out I love the design and experimentation that goes into programming as much as that which goes into a good hands-on science demonstration.
Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of my internship experience has been sharing a love for science learning not only with kids, but with adults as well. The excitement about science is infectious, in the office, and on the museum floor. I love calling adults over to my table when I am showcasing the augmented reality planets — I have something really cool to show you, I say, and watch as they pick up a tablet to appease my request. I hold my breath until the camera focuses on a 2D picture of a planet — maybe, let’s say Mars. And then, just as the image seems to freeze, the 3D, rotating rendering pops up on screen. Without fail, their face breaks into an expression of joy, and wonder at the image on screen, which they can zoom in on, and rotate with their finger, to explore the surface of another world, millions of miles away, in more detail than they likely ever imagined. For a moment, I pause to enjoy our mutual awe at their ability to experience this exploration. Then I ask them if they would like to go back in time, because we can use a feature to see what Mars looked like when it had liquid water. And this time they agree eagerly.
It has been a joy to explore science education through the crafting of immersive, community-oriented public events. Anyone who is interested in checking out events like the ones I have helped prepare this summer should explore The Franklin Institute’s Events and Programs. Bryn Mawr students can discover more amazing internship opportunities through the Career & Civic Engagement Center’s Internship Partners.