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Rising to the Challenge: High School Research and Internship Opportunities for Climate Science and Advocacy

4 minute read

Climate change has become one of the most pressing issues of our time, and addressing it requires collective effort. High school students, with their passion, creativity, and fresh perspectives, have a crucial role to play in combating climate change. One effective way for them to make a meaningful impact is by participating in climate change internships or research programs. These opportunities both provide students with valuable experience and empower them to contribute to positive environmental change.

Without further adieu, here are seven high school internships and research opportunities in the realm of climate change, advocacy, and sustainability that are available to high schoolers: 

7 Climate Science and Advocacy Research and Internship Opportunities for High School Students

1. U.S. Department of Energy Student Volunteer Program

When it comes to shaping your future and exploring potential career paths in the energy sector, the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Student Volunteer Program is a gateway you don't want to miss. Tailored for high school, college, and university students, this program presents a golden opportunity to get hands-on experience while getting a sneak peek into DOE's impactful mission.

As a potential student volunteer, you need to meet certain criteria: be at least 16 years old, be a U.S. citizen, and have a GPA of 2.0 or above. The process involves completing the OF 306 Form-Declaration for Federal Employment and a student volunteer agreement, along with securing permission from your educational institution. Commitment-wise, be prepared for a fun 6 to 16-week journey exploring one of various career paths, ranging from nuclear science and engineering to electric vehicles. 

2. Sierra Club Internships

The Sierra Club, one of the largest and most influential environmental organizations, offers internships for high school students through its local chapters. These internships aim to cultivate the next generation of environmental leaders by providing them with mentorship, training, and opportunities to engage in environmental advocacy and community projects centered around climate change awareness and solutions.

Find more specific information about the Sierra Club internship application process, including important deadlines, on your local chapter’s site (here’s a direct link to the page for internship opportunities with the Massachusetts Sierra Club). There is a short interest application option for applicants who would like to begin the process outside the designated time frame. 

Luckily, eligibility to get involved in the Sierra Club is quite broad, and there are plenty of ways you can take action and make a positive impact!

3. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) OSTEM Gateway Internships 

NASA offers various educational opportunities for students interested in Earth science and climate change research. Their internships provide students with a chance to work with NASA scientists, use cutting-edge technology, and analyze data related to climate change from a unique perspective – space. Using satellite technology, this internship is more research-oriented and will allow students to explore and tackle various challenges in climate science from a scientific perspective. The experience can be truly inspiring and can open doors to careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

Applicants seeking a NASA internship opportunity should hold U.S. Citizenship and fulfill a minimum GPA requirement of 3.0. These internships, which offer compensation, are accessible at various NASA facilities throughout fall, spring, and summer terms. The application process is all-encompassing, reviewed across the agency. Furthermore, OSTEM interns are eligible for stipends dependent on academic level and session duration. Notably, prior experience is not obligatory for application. Full-time students from high school through graduate levels, along with part-time college-level students engaged in a minimum of 6 semester hours, are encouraged to apply. This initiative extends its reach to high school students, undergraduates, graduates, and educators. Moreover, NASA sponsors internships at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California.

4. Alliance for Climate Education (ACE) - also known as Alliance for Climate Emergency, Inc.

Picture this: a bustling digital hive where over 800,000 young change-makers across the entire expanse of the United States come together like an Avengers team of climate crusaders. They're not just building a community; they're erecting the biggest, most vibrant gathering of high-school-aged climate champions you've ever seen. The Alliance for Climate Education (ACE) internship and fellowship program is doing exactly this! 

ACE offers an internship program that equips high school students with the knowledge and skills to become climate change leaders in their communities. Interns learn about climate science, communication strategies, and advocacy techniques. They then design and execute projects to raise awareness about climate change among their peers, creating a ripple effect of positive change. 

5. Harvard University Pre-College Summer Program 

Experience the allure of Harvard University in a whole new light with a unique summer program that's more than just an internship – it's an adventure. Though not technically a full-time internship, this two-week course grants you an exclusive sneak peek into life at Harvard, all while delving into fascinating subjects like climate sciences or any area that piques your curiosity.

Join an eclectic mix of like-minded students and distinguished faculty to quench your thirst for knowledge. The Harvard pre-college summer school program for high school students  isn't just a program; it's an immersive journey where you'll forge lifelong friendships and uncover the heart of Harvard's intellectual vibrancy. Don't miss the chance to infuse your summer with a taste of Harvard's magic.

If this specific option isn’t the right fit for you, there are other Harvard summer opportunities for high school students you can explore!

6. The Nature Conservancy Youth Conservation Corps 

The Youth Conservation Corps by The Nature Conservancy provides high school students with the chance to immerse themselves in hands-on conservation projects. While the focus isn't solely on climate change, these projects often contribute significantly to habitat restoration, a critical factor in countering the impacts of climate change. Engaging in this opportunity not only helps students forge a profound connection with the environment but also fosters a deep understanding of its preservation. This opportunity helps students foster a deep connection to the environment and the importance of its protection. 

7. Earthwatch Institute 

The Earthwatch Institute offers immersive expeditions for students interested in environmental conservation and climate change research. These expeditions provide students with the opportunity to work alongside scientists, collecting data and conducting research on critical environmental issues. Through hands-on experience, participants gain a deep understanding of climate change's impacts and contribute to real-world solutions.

Now in its 30th year, the Earthwatch Institute offers two all-expenses-paid student fellowships that aim to spark curiosity and a passion for science:

  • Ignite is open to Los Angeles County high school students aged 15 to 18.

  • Girls in Science is open to female-identifying teens

Taking the First Steps on Your Climate Science and Advocacy Internship Journey 

If you're ready to make a difference, step into a world where your passions meet opportunity, and dive into a rewarding journey with one of these high school internships for climate change, environment, and sustainability! Participating in climate change internships during high school not only enhances students' understanding of environmental issues but also empowers them to actively contribute to solutions. These programs and internships offer invaluable experiences, allowing students to collaborate with experts, engage in research, and lead community initiatives.

When you take on an internship or participate in a research program, you can play a significant role in building a sustainable future and inspiring others to take action against climate change!

Looking for help preparing for an internship or research program? By working with a Polygence research mentor to explore a topic you’re interested in, you’ll gain experience that can make your program or internship application stand out.

Ready to research with an expert and on your schedule?

Polygence pairs you with an expert mentor in your area of passion. Together, you work to create a high quality research project that is uniquely your own. We also offer options to explore multiple topics, or to showcase your final product!

Student exploring their passions