Middle School Internship Program: Authentic experiential learning in action

As we visited students at their internships the last week in April, we were yet again struck by the poise and maturity that comes through so strongly in these situations. The students’ hosts were so impressed with their work ethic and professionalism. We hope that this sense of accomplishment carried over at home, although we also know that fatigue may have stood in the way! (Who knew that 25 hours of work could be that exhausting?!?!)

A key component of the Inly Middle School curriculum, internships a great reminder to all of us about how important it is for adolescents to be authentically exposed to the larger society they will enter. Amid all the tumult, inconsistency and insecurity, we need to remember that they can do much more than we typically expect when given the chance and proper support.

The rationale behind Inly internships

Why do we do internships in 7th and 8th grade?

Middle school aged children are fascinated with their potential roles in the larger society and eager to explore these roles through their own participation. Authentic work experiences are an important part of their exploration of the world. At Inly we’ve designed our Internship Program to give students the opportunity to experience this key aspect of adolescent development and exploration.

The Montessori connection

The Montessori educational program leads each student naturally to the world of work. From the youngest age, the child’s activities in the classroom are referred to as “work,” and students are given substantial independence in how they approach this work in school and out of school. While their independence and initiative is encouraged, they are also taught that they are accountable for thorough completion of what they set out to do.

The connection with adults

At school they have developed many productive relationships with adults, including their teachers, the school administrators, and many parents, most of whom they are comfortable addressing by their first names. The Internship Program is designated to give our Middle School students further experience being supervised by adults, accomplishing important work, and meeting adults’ expectations.

What is a typical internship like?

There is no such thing as a typical internship. While each internship experience is different, all are valuable for the intern.  There is no “right” way to host an intern and no “rules” for the experience. The goal is that middle school students participate in authentic, productive, necessary work.

That being said, there are some uniform guidelines:

Inly interns work for at least 25 hours over the course of their week-long internship.

During internships, all students are required to keep a daily journal to help process the experience and prepare for their follow-up presentation. Specifically, they are asked to reflect on the questions below:

  • What did you learn about the organization you chose for your internship?
  • What was a typical day like?
  • What did you learn about yourself and your work habits?
  • What skills did you use or observe others using to be successful in this job?
  • Are you interested in this field of work?  Why or why not?
  • In hindsight, how was the process of securing your internship?  What did you do well?  What would you do differently?  What advice would you give to someone who hasn’t gone through the process before?

When students return from internships, they give oral presentations to faculty, family and other students. For seventh graders, this often sparks new ideas for next year’s internship!

Where do Inly students intern?

All over the place! Here’s a short sample of organizations and businesses that have hosted Inly interns over the past few years:

Advanced Food Systems Inc., Babycakes Bakery, Bayside Runner, Booth Hill Horse Barn, Company Theatre, Gary Land Photography, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Holly Hill Farm, Music Unlimited, NephCure Foundation, South Shore Art Center, South Shore Natural Science Center, Ventress Library, Weir River Farm

In addition, we’ve been fortunate to host talented interns in several departments at Inly School, including: Communications, Marketing, Events, Development and Alumni Relations. Those interested in early childhood education have also served as interns in the Toddler House and Children’s House preschool and kindergarten programs.

For more information, see the Middle School page on the Inly School website.

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