It's the halfway point of the internship experience.
Here's a quick re-cap of events:
My supervisor was traveling for a mission trip during this week, so I spent most of my time with FCS Assistants. I had the opportunity to pick and choose which programs to attend, so naturally I tagged along with anyone who would have me.
Monday began at Arlington Elementary, where we began recruiting parents to participate in our Nutrition Education Program. As the parents arrived to pick up their children we explained the program and were successful in convincing some to sign up. The FCS Assistant allowing me to shadow her is bilingual, which is fortunate as Arlington Elementary boasts a very large Hispanic population. Unfortunately, my Spanish skills are lacking, so while she was explaining the program to the parents who speak Spanish, I assisted the office staff in recording survey results. Although these surveys did not pertain to extension or our program, I was happy to busy myself with anything useful.
Later, we went to St. James Place where we talked about fruits and vegetables with the veterans. Our first activity involved naming fruits or vegetables from A-Z. We gave the soldiers a sheet with the alphabet listed and helped them brainstorm different fruits and vegetables corresponding with each letter. It was interesting to hear the ideas being shared around the room. After brainstorming we held a short lesson about the importance of fruits and vegetables in our diets, touching on vitamins, minerals and fiber. After the lesson we shared an Italian Cucumber Salad with them, and many were surprised to find they could enjoy vegetables.
The next day we ventured to William Wells Brown Elementary where we were doing a program with second graders. This was my first utterly chaotic experience in extension. To preface, it was their first day of camp, so students and counselors alike were still calculating their bearings. Although the lesson we were teaching was intended for second graders, shortly into the lesson I discovered many of the children were only five years old, while still others were claiming to be fourth graders. Due to these complications, we had some children who were bored with our activity and others who were unable to grasp the main concepts. As a result, the FCS Assistant tried to teach the lesson at different levels while I spent time on crowd control. In the end we managed to get the main points of our MyPlate lesson across to most of the students. We did our best with the situation we were given.
By the middle of the week we found ourselves back at Chrysalis House. This week we held a lesson about grains and shared whole grain pasta salad with the ladies. Many of them were surprised to discover the whole grain pasta did not taste any different than regular pasta. In the afternoon, we traveled across town to Sandersville Elementary where we assisted a 4-H Assistant in teaching a nutrition lesson about healthy snack choices. It was fun helping the kids make smoothies and assemble trail mix. They were disappointed that we encouraged them to choose dried fruits and nuts, but would not let them have as many M&Ms as they wished.
Towards the end of the week we went to Kenwick and Castlewood Camps, where we taught a lesson on exercise. I watched the FCS Assistant teach the lesson initially, but was allowed to take the lead in the latter. A few of the children were uncooperative, but most were excited to demonstrate different exercises to their classmates. We passed out jump ropes and held a jumping rope competition. Later in the day we went to Village Branch Library where we assisted teaching a lesson about fresh foods versus "fake" or processed foods. We took the children on a field trip next door to Save-a-Lot and assisted them in choosing fresh fruits for a fruit salad. We gave them a budget of $30, but only spent $21.88, or $1.45 per student. The children were really excited to learn knife safety skills and to practice cutting the fruit, which they never had the opportunity to do at home. They were surprised how cheap the fresh fruit was per person, and agreed the fresh fruit salad was much better than canned fruit salad.
This week began much the same as the week prior, with a visit to Arlington Elementary. After discussing the importance of grains and whole grains in our diets, we shared a treat of blueberry muffins and overnight oatmeal. The mothers were thrilled to have new ideas for easy breakfast recipes that might encourage their children to eat more fruits and grains. Next, we went to East 7th Street, where we held a dairy lesson with two different groups of children and shared smoothies. A few children were happy to learn they could get calcium from greens, and others were mortified when we informed them they could also find calcium in sardines! The looks on their little faces was priceless. We ended the day at St. James Place where we held yet another dairy lesson and shared smoothies. Teaching the same lesson to multiple groups throughout the day made lesson planning and shopping much easier.
The next day we went back to Kenwick where we taught a fruit lesson. We made fruit parfaits with the kids, and they were really excited to practice cutting strawberries and bananas. We anticipated having leftovers, but the kids loved the parfaits so much they went back for seconds. Later, I had another opportunity to lead a lesson, this time with preschool aged children. I read a story to them titled "How Groundhog's Garden Grew," and then shared a vegetable salad consisting of cucumbers, yellow bell peppers, and cherry tomatoes. A few of the kids loved the salad, while others refused to try it. We tried encouraging the kids to take just one bite, but they were very adamant that they did not like it.
The next morning we went to Cardinal Valley Elementary, where we repeated the "How Groundhog's Garden Grew" story. After reading the story, we shared bread and butter pickles with the children that we canned in the extension office a few weeks earlier. All of the children in this group were Hispanic, and many had never tried a pickle. We encouraged all of the children to try at least one bite in exchange for a coloring book. Only a couple of the kids really liked the pickles, and even asked for seconds, but the others weren't quite sure how they felt about them. One of the teachers told us that traditionally Hispanic families eat cucumbers alongside fruit seasoned with hot spices, such as pepper. Considering how very sweet these bread and butter pickles were, it is unsurprising the children were not thrilled about them. They did, however, enjoy the story and telling us all about their favorite vegetables.
I spent the rest of the holiday week planning for my special project!! (Stay tuned...I'll get to it!)
Beyond becoming accustomed to the ebb and flow of schedules and events in the extension office, over time I have become more confident in my own capabilities as an educator. Over the course of the summer I have slowly relaxed at the thought of speaking in front of others. I worry less about delivering a perfect speech and put more effort into engaging the audience with activities that will drive home the main concepts. Initially, teaching young children was very intimidating, but as I spend more time interacting with them I find I enjoy it more each time. It is incredible how quickly I have been able to learn and anticipate their behavior.
More than anything, I find great pleasure being in the position to introduce people to new experiences. I really enjoy taking foods to share with the children and encouraging them to try it. I take care to listen to conversations happening around me in order to gain perspective and develop ideas for future lessons. For example, at St. James Place a soldier mentioned he had never tried avocado because he generally did not enjoy green foods. The following week we brought him an avocado, taught him how to cut it, and let him try it. He loved it, so we gave him a whole avocado for his own purposes. For many people, the reason they have never tried many foods is because they do not have an expendable budget. Buying unfamiliar items is a great risk when you are working with a tight budget, especially when other (and sometimes less healthy) options are cheaper. By allowing them to try new things for free, they are encouraged to go out and buy it on their own because they already know they will like it.
It is hard to believe the summer is already halfway over. I am finally getting in the swing of things! Although I am always looking forward to what the future holds, it will be bittersweet to move on from extension. I have developed great relationships that have helped me grow in so many ways.
It's my one month internship-iversary! Here are the highlights …
My first road trip beyond the boundaries of Fayette County. My supervisor and I traveled to Nicholas County Fair where we were given the opportunity to judge items submitted by members of the community. There were different categories of goods to judge including textiles, baked goods, canning, photography, horticulture, jewelry making, and even antiques. It was interesting to see what items people chose to submit, and even more interesting to learn how to judge, which can be subjective at times. Free dessert is always a bonus. Chocolate zucchini cake, you stole my heart.
Towards the middle of the week I accompanied an FCS Assistant to the Chrysalis House. During this visit we presented "Rethink your Drink" materials and counseled the women on sugar and caffeine intake. The objective was to try to raise awareness of how many calories from added sugars are in popular beverages such as soda, energy drinks, and kids' fruit punch. At the end of our lesson we shared a healthy Strawberry Limeade drink with our participants.
Later that day I ventured to the Lexington Public Library Central Branch with my supervisor. We held a program about couponing that had a very successful turn-out. Going along with our thrifty theme, I had the opportunity to present a recipe to our participants and share price comparisons from different vendors. I made "Zucchini and Corn" and researched produce prices at the farmer's market, Kroger, and Aldi.
We rounded out the week teaching the 4H Safe Sitter curriculum at Meadowthorpe Elementary. As a part of this program we taught rising 6th graders babysitting basics, including topics such as business development, safety awareness, and childcare skills. I had the opportunity to speak with the students about food safety, including examples of safe snacks that would be appropriate for young children. They had a fun time practicing how to hold, feed, burp, and change diapers with the "dummy" babies.
Back at the Chrysalis House we held another session with the women and discussed dairy. It seems as though the dairy group is one of the more commonly known food groups. So far, every group I have had the chance to talk with about dairy has already been aware of the benefits of consuming dairy, including basic knowledge about calcium and good food sources. After the lesson we shared a strawberry banana smoothie with our participants.
Next, my supervisor and I went to the BCTC campus on Leestown Road and talked with a group of teenagers about the "Rethink your Drink" curriculum. After discussing healthier beverage options we presented them with a booklet of simple and healthy snack recipes (made by yours truly), and assisted them in making a few of the recipes, including a healthy fruit smoothie. Although they were a little skeptical of our recipes at first we convinced them to give the snacks a try, and they were surprised to discover they liked what we had to offer.
Later in the week I accompanied an FCS Assistant and UK graduate student to Kenwick Center Camp. During our visit we discussed MyPlate and the different food groups with the kids. Our time with them was very interactive. We played an icebreaker game with a frisbee, asked them to give examples of their favorite foods from each food group, and involved them in a friendly competitive relay race. For the relay race, we placed paper bags at one end of the gym labeled with different food groups and gave them paper cut-outs of different foods to categorize into the bags. Not only did we educate them on some foods they had never heard of, such as hummus and lentils, but we also got them moving and practiced team-work.
Then, my supervisor and I were off to "Cooking on a Coin" at the Lexington Public Library Village Branch. This program is offered by the library for kids in the surrounding neighborhoods to learn food safety techniques, nutrition, and cooking basics. We kicked off the program with a germ simulation activity and discussed the importance of proper hand washing technique. Afterwards we learned about MyPlate, discussed the food groups, and used www.choosemyplate.gov to calculate each child's daily caloric needs based on their height, weight, and physical activity level. We rounded out the lesson by preparing Overnight Oats, which is a great breakfast that can be prepared ahead of time.
We polished off the end of the week by attending the Lexington Farmer's Market downtown on Saturday morning. This week we demonstrated the recipe Very Berry Salsa for shoppers and passed out insulated bags for their fresh produce. The salsa was a big hit!
In between the highlights of the last two weeks I have found time to do some organizing around the office, to practice my paperwork capabilities using KERS, attend various meetings, and to begin planning my Special Project (more info a little later). There is always something to do if you look around hard enough to find it. Speaking of finding things, while elbow deep in organizing the FCS agents' closet of reinforcement materials I stumbled across the recipe my classmates and I developed way back during my first bachelor's degree! It was really encouraging to see firsthand how our work is being used for the community.
You may recognize a few things from my previous blog post, but there are still a lot of first experiences to be had in this position, such as each opportunity to work alongside not just one agent but multiple employees in extension. It has often been said that what works for one may not work for all, and that is certainly the case for the professionals in extension. They are free to be as creative as they wish with their lesson planning and programs. Working alongside different employees not only offers a much wider perspective of FCS and extension, but also a wider array of teaching and communication techniques. Despite their differences in how they get the job done they are all very similar on another front....why they choose this job. They care. It is plain to see that each and every one of them is invested in their work. Each has their own passion, but each of them care about the people they are working with and invest themselves not only mentally but financially as well. It takes a very special person to be willing to invest in the community to such an extent.
What works for one may not work for all, and this applies not only to professionals but also to people in the community. If there is one take-away message from the last two weeks that I will carry with me through my professional career it would be that of practicality. In the DPD program at UK we are required to take courses such as nutritional biochemistry, advanced nutrition, and medical nutrition therapy, which to students seems like tedious work. These courses are absolutely necessary to thoroughly understand the practice of dietetics, but if we cannot use the knowledge we gain in a professional setting then what good is it? My professors have said it countless times, but I never really understood its importance until members of the community began to look to me as a professional for advice. Furthermore, there are oftentimes extenuating circumstances (finances, culture, religion) that may render what we have learned in class impractical for a group of people. As a future dietitian, I hope to use my experience in extension alongside my education as preparation for providing practical advice for my clients.
A collection of stories as an intern with University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension, providing community-based nutrition education services.