#70. Go to the offices of your most local newspaper, and see if there is anything you can do there as a volunteer

IDEA #70. Go to the offices of your most local newspaper, and see if there is anything you can do there as a volunteer. Hang out and be helpful, if they’ll let you. The more polite and positive you are, the better your chances.

The heart of public discourse in our nation has always been the newspaper. Although the number (and page count) of great city dailies continues to fall, many communities continue to depend on a local newpaper (or two) to chronicle local evprinterents and local issues. Display advertisements draw citizens to local businesses, classifieds keep jobs and personal goods in circulation, sports pages and education features herald the triumphs of local youngsters, and editorial pages (especially those renowned for courage or contrariety) lead and model public discussion on issues both great and small.

Newspapers come in all sizes, from city dailies with legions of writers, printers, and delivery drivers to one-person small-town weeklies. Many of the larger papers have internship programs, some quite formal and reserved for journalism students and others less so. Smaller papers may either want or resist a helping hand, even that of a volunteer, depending on circumstances.

Perhaps the aspirant can approach a particular office at the newspaper and inquire about volunteer opportunities. At the very least, ask if someone might be able to show the youngster around; larger papers may even have scheduled tours. If there are opportunities to become involved, take them, no matter how trivial they may seem. In earlier times, the newspaper business was often learned literally from the bottom up, with the young Benjamin Franklin inking type and pulling paper on his way to becoming the chief writer and publisher of the influential Pennsylvania Gazette.

For some people the figurative smell of printer’s ink has an irresistible draw, and young people who discover this about themselves at an early age may see a lifetime in the world of words and ideas beginning to unfold in the pages of their first newspaper.

#65. Find a local scientific or medical laboratory (try a college or university) or a company whose work is primarily involved with science or engineering. See if you can spend a few days observing, or perhaps even offer to volunteer.

IDEA #65. Find a local scientific or medical laboratory (try a college or university) or a company whose work is primarily involved with science or engineering. See if you can spend a few days observing, or perhaps even offer to volunteer.

Science and technology form the backbone of the American innovation economy, and many institutions and companies, small and large, are deeply engaged in research and development. In some cases the work is “pure” science, tracking down basic knowledge, while in other cases the work is applying scientific know-how to specific practical problems. In any case, somewhere relatively close by should be a commercial, educational, or medical laboratory that the interested youngster could approach about observing science at work.

There are likely to be practical or even legal restrictions on any such activity, but the chance to spend a few days simply watching scientists or engineers at work should be well worth any time that is involved. Some places may welcome questions, while others will be less receptive to interruption, but if the youngster displays an active, thoughtful curiosity, a supportive relationship could grow. Depending on the nature of the work and the age and capabilities of the young observer, it might also be possible to parlay this interest into an opportunity to volunteer or intern.

Most school science classes do a good job teaching students about the theory of science, and the best of them include realistic laboratory exercises that give students the chance to perform procedures, record data, and actually apply some theory. But until a student has seen a real laboratory in action and shared some of the day-in, day-out routine of science—especially when the science being done is original work directed at answering important questions—he or she can never fully appreciate the complexity and the richness of authentic scientific inquiry.

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