When she’s not picking up trash from the beaches of Fiji, Nina Ramos likes to spend her free time as an intern in Outside In, talking to children and their parents about the ins and outs of the animals that spend their days there.
“She is proficient in handling all the animals and knows how to interpret them all for our visitors,” says Amy Hoyt, co-manager of the Academy’s popular children’s nature discovery center. “Maybe you’ve seen her here on occasion?”
Nina, 17, a senior at John W. Hallahan Catholic Girls’ High School in Philadelphia, also likes to play games. She recently won an award for a game she created for the Academy that she calls Rethink Reduce Reuse Recycle.
The game encourages players to think before using an object, such as a plastic straw, that they then throw in the trash and that could end up in an ocean.The inspiration came to her after a trip to Fiji where she found herself drawn to the beach and waves to collect the trash that kept washing ashore, carried by ocean currents from far off lands.
“I wanted to focus on making people aware of choices in everyday life. My game is a matching game for kids,” says Nina. “It’s educational in a fun way,” which could be the mantra for Outside In itself.
Nina is one of dozens of young people who volunteer in Outside In. She has logged more than 425 hours since 2013. “An amazing feat,” says Sean Stallworth, Nina’s other Outside In boss.
Outside In volunteers are encouraged to create a project that will engage children in a fun and educational interactive activity. Those who take up the challenge are eligible to compete for the Cheryl Beth Silverman Award.
Academy supporters Art and Carol Silverman had set up a trust in memory of their daughter, Cheryl Beth. The trust funds intern-proposed projects created in support of Outside In. The opportunity is geared toward young people who share Cheryl Beth’s passion for the environmental sciences.
Nina won the 2017 award, and the Silvermans of Warminster, Pa., were there to congratulate her, as they have been for more than 60 other recipients of the last 25 years.
“Thank you for passing the torch,” Mrs. Silverman said to Nina at the November ceremony that was packed with Nina’s family and also Academy staff.
“The Academy has been such a big part of my life,” Nina told the audience in a brief acceptance speech.
Soon the really big part of her life will begin. She plans to study marine biology in college and says her role model is the accomplished marine biologist Sylvia Earle.
Meanwhile, next time you’re in Outside In, look for Nina’s Rethink Reduce Reuse Recycle game and have fun.
Text and photos by Carolyn Belardo.