In May 2015 I worked as an intern for Litterati, a social media based organization that tracks litter using a hashtag. Litterati's data shows litter patterns and reveals areas that are prone to harming the environment. During my internship, I focused on reaching out to companies to partner on creating a litter-free Bay Area and starting a curricilum for Litterati to share with schools so they too can teach and practice environmental responsibility. To learn more, visit www.litterati.org.
I’m so glad that I not only found an internship, but that I have one that I am actually passionate about. I’ve worked with Litterati before when its founder Jeff Kirschner came to ACLC’s Earth Day and when he presented last year to Leadership. So far, he has been very supportive and appreciative that I’ve taken interest in the organization. This week has been mostly focused on research into possible projects I can do for it. He seems very intent on creating data visualization for Litterati to display on the website, but I have no knowledge of how to do anything like that. I’m hoping that I’ll either get some direction and learn how to use analysis programs and/or find another way my skills can be put to use. I’d really like to make a difference for Litterati.
This week I've been focusing on researching Common Core curriculum and possible companies to reach out to on Litterati's behalf. In the video on the Litterati website, Jeff explains that their data can be used as a starting off point for opening discussions with cities or organizations or companies to create plans or intiatives with us. Since Litterati is still new, they don't have much experience with this part of their goal. I was originally thinking I could work with press releases and media ocverage seeing as I've done that before, but because this aspect of the organization is still untapped, I may be able to make a bigger impact there.
During my last week of my internship, I translated my research, calls, and project notes into documents and models for litterati to reference and use in the future. For my corportate partnership program, I created a table of Starbucks in Oakland and San Francisco that have large amount of litter surrounding them and included my contact notes. I also created a model for Litterati to use in the future when reaching out to companies. For my educational curriculum project, I worked with my mom, a fifth grade teacher, to create a Common- Core based lesson plan for Litterati to distribute to teachers. It includes lessons in art, writing and math. I also created a timeline for the process of creating a full curriculum including the steps when dealing with district officials for Litterati to use in the future if it decides to expand its educational impact.
When I started this internship, I didn’t know what to expect. I knew Litterati was a relatively new organization, but I wasn’t sure what that’d mean for me. Luckily, it turned out that it gave me the freedom to use and build on my skills. My supervisor, Jeff, was nice enough to first give me the support and resources I needed to get a better background on his organization and how they organize data and then offer me a chance to choose how I’d like to help. I’ve had experience in media outreach, logistic and educational programming and cold calls before from various extracurricular projects, but Litterati allowed me to find my own ways of combining them.
Because my internship was done completely on my own time, my day-to-day responsibilities changed a lot. I took on the responsibility of finding new ways to turn my interests into projects that would be of use, working on them independently, and collaborating through email with my supervisor. To me, this seemed like the quintessence of ACLC’s model for self-motivation and taking ownership of one’s education. Some days I spent solely on research. Most of this was focused on the Common Core curriculum and how elementary school districts are implementing it into their lesson plans, and Corporate Social Responsibility. When I was talking with Jeff during my first week, I remember him mentioning Starbucks in an example of litter they commonly find, so I decided to look further. I searched through the Starbucks company’s extensive community and environmental outreach programs. I also used Litterati’s interactive digital map to find the Starbucks stores in my surrounding area that have large amounts of litter around them. While I found my groove in these projects, there were also some aspects of my internship that I found challenging.
I had a hard time at first deciding on what to focus my time on during my internship. Jeff had given me three potential topics to start with: data visualization, educational curriculum, and corporate outreach. Wanting to make a good first impression, I decided to try all three. Data visualization was focused on taking Litterati’s immense database and turning it into simple visual aids. After watching a few videos on the importance of data visualization and beautifying numbers to make them comprehensible, I was eager to start. I downloaded a data analysis program, but it turned out that using computer programs and creating intricate graphs and visual aids is not my strong suit. I was hardly able to understand the programs I tried, let alone use them for my intern work. This realization was frustrating at first, but after deciding to focus my attention just to corporate outreach and curriculum creation, I found my stride.
I may have started my internship later in the year than most, but the opportunities it afforded me made up for my late start. More than training to be professional during calls with Starbucks management or adapting raw material to lessons, I learned to take initiative with what I’m interested in. Litterati’s goal to help the environment through the use of social networking resonates with me as both an environmentally conscious person and as a teen, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to influence and learn from an organization that exemplifies new ways of dealing with growing issues.