Have you ever experienced an ‘aha’ moment, a flash of insight, a sudden realization, or an idea that just clicks? It’s like a spark that catches fire inside and moves you to action. There’s a point every year in Project SEARCH where we see this happening with the interns and it’s an exciting time for everyone. In this fourth year of Project SEARCH, we’ve become more attuned to when these moments appear as the interns become more familiar and comfortable in new surroundings and with new people. Some moments are more subtle than others, but we see them in words, in body language, a look in the eye, or a changed attitude toward self and others.
Recently, a spark of realization was evident when Israel made changes to how he picks items in the Medical Device Reprocessing department. Skills trainers might teach a specific method but then they get to watch as an intern, like Israel did, realizes it also works in reverse or even from the middle and working outward. These moments are breakthroughs in understanding complex concepts, or sudden insights into a situation or problem. All approaches might work equally but the intern will use the one that works best for them.
These sparks of understanding are moments of clarity in which an intern gains a new comprehension of a concept, idea, or process. It can be a small epiphany that sheds light on confusing information, leading to greater understanding, and sometimes it happens fast. Punna, interning in food services, very quickly grasped her new role where she is required to make quick decisions regarding waste, recycling, and reprocessing in a noisy fast-paced environment. There is an established process involved to be proficient and Punna experienced a quick succession of moments of understanding and as a result was provided the opportunity to learn additional duties to maximize skill development in an internship.
A flash of insight happened recently when Brandon, who is working in mail services, wanted more responsibility in his internship and was open to trying new things. This insight of possibility became a reality and Brandon was given a new project to work on that provided him with new learning opportunities. Flashes of insight like this can spark excitement resulting from problem-solving, creativity, and learning.
Such sparks of opportunity occur when we embrace a situation that presents a new window for advancement or progress. After only a couple of weeks in his new Waste & Linen internship, Owen asked coworkers if they were hiring. He’s enjoying his work more than expected and can envision himself working here long-term. He recognized the potential opportunity and approached skills trainers about education required to work there. He was excited to learn he could qualify with his current education and his eyes light up with renewed hope.
Some of the greatest moments we see are the profound realizations that, “I can do this”. Sometimes an intern simply assumes they can’t do something or were told by others that they can’t. But Project SEARCH challenges such assumptions and interns continuously break through perceived barriers and find that renewed spark of hope with each new accomplishment.
Examples of these moments are nearly endless and can involve the development in perception, memory, and problem-solving skills. It often includes physical abilities such as muscle coordination and dexterity. Learning can be conscious or unconscious, and can occur through observation, practice, and instruction. All of these are foundational to Project SEARCH so the scope of learning potential is wide and the ‘aha’ moments frequent both in-class and on the job.
We’ve reached the point in the year where we have seen great growth in the interns. We can see sparks combining with other sparks and fueling the fire of positive expectations, outcomes, and creating a determination to overcome obstacles. And the flame grows – flashes of insight and understanding. Moments of realization. Renewed hope. Seizing opportunity. Eureka moments in learning. A spring in the step and a desire to be here. The sparks become essential skills for employment and the skills open doors of possibility for the future.