With a Summer Grant, Clare McLaughlin ’15 Merges Her Passions — and Learns How to Grow Asparagus

Clare McLaughlin feeding a 1-day-old kid

Clare McLaughlin feeding a 1-day-old kid

On one of Bowdoin’s funded internships this summer, Clare McLaughlin ’15 is exploring a potential career path that blends two of her greatest interests.

Since her first year at Bowdoin, McLaughlin has tutored regularly at the local elementary school. This past year, she worked with students Monday through Friday. Come weekends, McLaughlin — who is trained by the College outing club to be a trip leader — heads out to the mountains when she can with other students.

Yet, while McLaughlin has spent a lot of time both in the classroom and outdoors, these sides of her life have not overlapped. “I’ve done a lot with the outdoors and education — they are both passions of mine, but separate passions,” she said.  “I wanted to combine them and see if environmental education was something I wanted to do.”

Clare McLaughlin works with a student in the red lettuce bed

McLaughlin works with a student in the red lettuce bed

To investigate this possibility, McLaughlin, a native of Warren, Vt., received a Strong/Gault Social Advancement Internship grant to spend a summer working at Shelburne Farms in Vermont. The 1,400-acre working farm on the shores of Lake Champlain sells farm products — such as cheese, fruits, vegetables, lamb, pork, eggs and maple syrup — and also serves as a nonprofit educational center whose mission is to cultivate a conservation ethic for a sustainable future, according to its website.

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The Strong/Gault grant is one of several grants for students overseen by Bowdoin’s Career Planning office. These funds financially support students who pursue otherwise uncompensated summer opportunities, allowing them to explore possible careers. The Strong/Gault grant is aimed specifically at students who work for a nonprofit, for-profit or government agency that serves economically underdeveloped areas by providing services and innovative programs that benefit a particular community, region or society at large.

“I think the environment commonly seems reserved for people who can afford the leisure time,” Mclaughlin said, adding that the farm partners with programs that help students from a range of background, such as the King Street Center, Vermont FEED, Farm to School and more.

This summer McLaughlin is interning at Shelburne Farm’s educational center, which provides educational programs for preschoolers to high school students. She will co-teach different age groups alongside a staff educator.

The Shelburne program  exposes her to progressive teaching methods, she said, such as giving children freedom to pursue their interests. But teaching theories aside, McLaughlin says she’s also learning the basics, such as how to feed chickens. “I want to get more knowledge about farming and the environment — the content. Sometimes when you’re so idealistic about teaching styles, you forget you also have to learn,” she said, adding, “For instance, how do you pick asparagus?”

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