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Summer Internships: Maddie Thomas '26

July 18, 2023
Maddie Thomas in a lab coat

Name: Maddie Thomas
Class Year: 2026
Major: Literatures in English and Sociology
Minor: Education
Hometown: Centerville, Ohio

Internship Organization: Boonshoft Museum of Discovery
Job Title: Education Intern
Location: Dayton, Ohio

What's happening at your internship? We would love to hear what kind of work you are doing!

I don’t think I could have chosen a better way to spend my summer than as an intern at the Boonshoft. I have a wide range of responsibilities, including running a science theater program showcasing aspects of chemistry and physics and a “Do Lab” with opportunities for children to conduct their own hands-on experiments. I also act as an exhibit guide to increase the number of interactive experiences visitors can have at the museum. The Boonshoft is a relatively small museum, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know my new coworkers. I work with teen volunteers, other college-age interns, and staff members to cover all responsibilities and meet visitor needs; it’s wonderful to have found a truly supportive, collegial environment. I also feel safe being openly transgender, which is somewhat rare in a situation involving children and childcare. I have found my time at the Boonshoft to be enriching and informative, helping me build my skills as an educator while contemplating my future and my potential career choices. One of the most challenging things about this job so far has been adapting the content for a variety of audiences. I don’t have knowledge of or experience with child psychology and development, and it has taken some practice to learn what works best for different age groups, keeping in mind all the while that even children of the same age group can have vastly different educational needs. So many people enter the museum under so many different circumstances, whether it’s a family passing through the area on a road trip, a parent who brings their children every week, a summer camper, or a field trip group. They approach the space with varying goals, from “have fun” to “learn” to “kill some time,” and the way they interact with the museum reflects these diverse goals. I have never been a go-with-the-flow kind of person, so this internship represents an ideal opportunity to work on adapting and improvising content and style for different audiences. I look forward to helping more visitors learn in a way that suits their needs and goals.

Selfie with Maddie and Erin
My fellow intern Erin and I on our first day.

Why did you apply for this internship?

The Boonshoft is a staple of my community. Families drive hours to come see the exhibits and have fun, and the museum shows kids the wonder in asking questions, exploring their world, and in cultivating their own curiosity. I knew I wanted to be a part of creating that experience. I was also looking specifically for a more informal education experience — partly out of necessity, since very few formal education opportunities exist in the summertime. But chiefly and most importantly, because my education courses at Bryn Mawr this past year, especially at Ardmore’s Common Space, have shown me an expansive array of possibilities for what we define as education. I wanted to work in a nontraditional education setting for two reasons. First, I wanted to observe the differences between between museum and classroom education in order to note differences in children’s demeanor, learning, and engagement. Second, I wanted to evaluate my personal aptitude and affinity for informal versus formal education. The reason I reached out to the Boonshoft specifically was because it was an integral part of my own childhood. I remembered the wonder and awe I felt as a child visiting the Boonshoft. Entering the museum after an absence of ten to fifteen years felt like walking through a different kind of museum — one made of my own memories. So much has changed, but so much still remains the same. I take special pride in my work enriching the visitor experience because I remember how much children’s museums meant to me. I want to show kids that their curiosity and wonder are not only permitted, but appreciated and valued.

Poster with directions for a student activity.
Marshmallow Towers, an activity part of a format of interaction I am helping to develop at the Boonshoft.

What has been your favorite part of this internship? 

Even though I'm an intern, I get to be in charge of presentation-style programming in the form of the Science Theater (chemistry-based experiments centered around a common theme) and the Do Lab (hands-on science activities for kids). I have a lot of fun introducing kids to science concepts and weaving in elements of the scientific method throughout, but hands-down, my favorite part of the internship has been being an exhibit guide in the museum's Discovery Zoo. I get to have one-on-one interactions with visitors, practice adapting my content for each visitor, group, or family, and share really exciting facts about the animals that call the Boonshoft their home. I love seeing how excited children get sharing all the facts they want to know, and I especially love introducing kids to the animals, like our turkey vulture Lucy, that don't always get as much attention as traditionally 'cute' animals like otters and meerkats.

A bat-eared Fox
Flora, a Bat-Eared Fox who calls the Boonshoft's Discovery Zoo home.

What has been the biggest challenge you have faced at your internship?

Perhaps my biggest challenge has been putting on an exuberant personality for presentations and interactions with the public. Don't get me wrong, I'm excited to go to work, but I'm an extremely introverted, reserved, and soft-spoken person, and it's difficult for me to seem excited, even when I actually am very excited. I'm working on my volume, jokes, and body language to communicate to the audience that something amazing is happening in their beakers or on the stage, and I think I've made some headway so far.

Visit the Summer Internship Stories page to read more about student internship experiences.

Literatures in English Sociology Education