Last summer was a blast! For the first time in a very long time I took the risk of trying something new. I branched out of the service industry after 3 years and entered the realm of outreach and community engagement. As a summer intern with UK Cooperative Extension, I had the unique opportunity to work with county agents and assistants in the implementation of nutrition education programs with SNAP eligible audiences of Fayette County.
If you have read the earlier blogs in this sequence, you would know that by the end of the summer we interns were responsible for designing and implementing our own program to an audience of our choice; and mine was to be the Top Chef Program during Camp Carnegie at the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning.
The Top Chef Program was designed to teach youth the basics of cooking and nutrition, while introducing topics related to sustainable agriculture and knowing where our food comes from. Each day of camp involved an opening lesson that would introduce the activity for that afternoon. By the end of the week, the campers would be prepared to perform a recipe of their choosing in the Top Chef Cook-Off! We also planned a field-trip to the farmer's market and a UK Cooperative Extension Horticulture Agent as a guest speaker.
As I so often find, something beyond control is bound to come along at some point and inspire change. During this week the Carnegie Center was having its basement remodeled, which meant we no longer had full access to the kitchen. No big deal! We did our best to make it work by bringing hot plates, cleaning supplies, and coolers so that we could make our recipes. A schedule adjustment was also necessary to accommodate for the education level of the campers. I bulked up the schedule by adding more recipes, online group work, and outdoor activities.
The week started out great with a fun first day of breaking the ice and talking about nutrition. It was immediately clear that these kids already knew quite a bit about nutrition, or had at least heard about it before even if they didn't quite understand it. I should have known the lessons I had prepared would not be challenging enough when the majority of the campers knew what lentils are, which was normally pretty obscure among my other groups.
As a result, about halfway through the second day the attention span of the group had all but disappeared, and it was a challenge to find activities that would be interesting and relevant on the spot. We incorporated a little physical activity into our plan by heading outdoors for relay races and soccer.
We took our field trip to the farmer's market on the third day in an effort to avoid the thunderstorm forecast for the following day. It was the highlight of the week, in my opinion, and the students seemed to have a blast negotiating and budgeting for their final recipe. One vendor even donated produce to our class!!
Our guest speaker was a hit on the fourth day, and the campers made their very own "Junk Food Compost" while learning about sustainable gardening techniques from Delia, Fayette County's Extension Horticulture Agent. Afterwards we had Cooking Conditioning challenge, where we had stations set up all around the room for the campers to practice their skills before the big finale to follow.
Although I was unable to be there on the final day to help the campers with their recipes, my mentor made sure to keep me posted on all of the action. It sounded like the students had a great time presenting their recipe and trying all of the good food their peers created.
Unfortunately, this blog has been long delayed since matters of family ended my internship suddenly after Camp Carnegie. However, throughout fall semester I carefully contemplated Camp Carnegie, especially in relation to my Counseling and Communications class. Oh boy, was I totally unprepared! There were so many things that I had yet to learn at that point in my professional experience about what it takes to truly teach others effectively. As I look back on the Activity Booklet that I created for my class, there are so many things that I would do differently now that I have learned what is effective for that setting.
Camp Carnegie was a great learning experience! If I ever had the opportunity to teach Top Chef again, then I would absolutely do it. And this time around, I would be all the wiser, and just a little more seasoned :-)
A collection of stories as an intern with University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension, providing community-based nutrition education services.