George Lucas Educational Foundation

Internships Offer Meaningful Real-World Learning

Sixteen-year-old Noah finds purpose and learns valuable career skills working at a nonprofit two full days a week, while protecting and restoring his local watershed. Internships with deep impact are a key element at his high school, San Diego Met, part of the Big Picture network.
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Internships Offer Meaningful Real-World Learning (Transcript)

Noah: Here, I’m able to do things that affect how San Diegans think about water, and I’m able to do something where I can put my mark on the world that I will soon be coming into.

I’m Noah, 16, and I go to the San Diego Met High School, which is a school where students start participating in an internship program, beginning in first semester of ninth grade. Coastkeeper, their mission statement is to have drinkable, swimmable, and fishable waters in San Diego. Basically, we want more fish in our rivers, we want our rivers to be cleaner, and we want it-- them to be less filled with trash.

Noah: The internship program is a great way for students to find new opportunities, to do things that they might not do during the normal school day, meet people who they wouldn’t meet, have experiences, get training-- get trained to do things, basically just here’s how you need to get your foot in the door.

Dennis: When Elliot Washor and myself had the opportunity to create a new school, we really closed our eyes and said, “If we didn’t know there was such a thing as school, what would it be like?” And it wouldn’t be the 50 minute classes and you ring a bell and you run to some other place, that’s not what learning is.

Travis: We have low oxygen, high bacteria then there’s really something in the water that we need to figure out.


Travis: What’s the worst bacteria that we have here in San Diego?

Noah: Tijuana, no question.

Travis: No question, yeah.

Dennis: And so we set out that every kid was going to have their individual learning plan, what are your skills, what are your interests? Then we send them out in the community where the real world’s there, and they work two days a week, from ninth grade on.

Elliot: So instead of going from school to work, we really go from work to school. What are the real academics in the real world that are really being used, and then use that as a motivator to get kids more engaged in school.

Travis: Having Noah working alongside me is, I think both really valuable for Noah, and really valuable for me. For Noah, he gets really an insider’s look at what it’s like to have a career. Today we went to the San Diego River and we collected some water samples. First thing we did is we collected a unfiltered water sample that we’re going to bring back to the lab and run bacteria analysis on it. So that’s how we measure if the water is safe to swim in. We also took a second sample where we filtered it, which was what we did with the pump. That filtered water is going to be used to measure nutrients, and dissolved metals in the water.

Noah: So it’s a high salinity.

Travis: Which is interesting because we had a rain, recently.


So rain, you would expect--

Yeah, wash out all the salt.

Noah: He’s shown me how to do these things that I had no idea how to do. He’s taught me how to sample. He’s basically taught me how to use Excel, and all the advanced formulas.

Travis: That’s perfect. You see how when it dips down?


That dip is right on the line--

Noah: Yeah, yeah it’s perfect.

Travis: Noah has the same job I had when I was 23 years old and finishing school. He does data entry, he does quality control checks. I really rely on him at this point. You know, he’s 16 years old, and I could not do the job that I do now without him.



Let’s go.

Noah: Getting off campus lets me be able to do things and see things that I would never be able to see, except for like career day on campus.

Travis: When he graduates high school, he’s going to have three years, maybe four years of work experience in a lab, and I think it’s really going to set him ahead. When he’s in college applying for jobs, he’s got that extra bump of work experience, of relevant work experience.

Noah: To have an idea of what to expect before starting your first job, seeing people work, it helps you know the environment and know where you’re going. That’s what’s really great about this.

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  • Producer: Stephen Brown
  • Director of Photography: Vanessa Carr
  • Editor: Matthew Beighley
  • Associate Producer: Douglas Keely
  • Senior Manager of Video: Amy Erin Borovoy
  • Commissioning Producer: Zachary Fink
  • Executive Producer: David Markus

This video was co-produced by Mobile Digital Arts and Twin Cities Public Television as a companion to the PBS special, Is School Enough?

Is School Enough? Video Series

Edutopia's new series profiles young people who are making their learning more authentic by taking it into their own hands, on their own time. This series is produced by Mobile Digital Arts and Twin Cities Public Television, as a companion to an hour-long PBS special that is now available to watch.

More Edutopia Coverage on Real-World Internships

Visit the Is School Enough? series page to see more videos on informal learning.

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