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 :-)
Time is running out! Let's hop to it...
This was an extra special week in my summer. Remember way back to my first week when I went to Super Star Chef Training? Oh yeeeeeah....time flies.
I spent this week in Madisonville, KY with the Super Star Chef team. We traveled from Madisonville to Dawson Springs every morning to teach the Super Star Chef curriculum to West Kentucky 4-H campers. We taught four groups of campers for 50 minutes apiece, Wednesday-Friday.
That Monday morning we bustled around Lexington collecting extra cooking and teaching supplies, pre- and post-tests, and reinforcement items, which are fun free-bees given to program graduates. Each camper got their very own apron, set of measuring cups, cutting board, and graduation certificate upon completion.
Tuesday evening we traveled out to the 4-H campsite for class sign-ups. As I have learned, I am one of few natural-born rural Kentuckians to never participate in 4-H camp as a child, therefore sign-ups were surprising to me. My vision of class sign-ups was very dull compared to the lively, enthusiastic, and competitive soirée we walked into. We had to actively recruit our class members, which was challenging without props. For example, Music Class played the songs they would be learning, Rocketry Class boasted their homemade rockets, and Pinterest Class had beautiful pictures of their upcoming crafts. By the end of sign-ups we had an average of 6 kids per class and only 2 males overall.
Wednesday began with purchasing program support supplies, in this case groceries for our recipes. We taught the campers hand-washing and knife safety, including the differences between types of knives, and allowed them to practice cutting fruit. We used our chopped fruit to make fruit kabobs using skewers. The Sweet Treats Class even let us borrow melted chocolate for our kabobs!
After buying our groceries Thursday morning we headed back to Dawson Springs. We taught the campers the importance of food preservation and made strawberry freezer jam.
On Friday we made homemade salsa with the campers, providing them with chips to enjoy their finished product!
Although I have taught a few audiences on a weekly basis throughout the summer, such as the women at Chrysalis House and the veterans at St. James Place, this was my first experience teaching on a daily basis. Even though we only had three days with the campers, by the end of the week I had gotten to know each one of them. I learned about their families, pets, hobbies, extra-curricular activities, favorite foods, books, movies, music....the list is endless.
On Friday as we were finishing up each class the kids gave us all hugs and thanked us for spending time with them. It was a blast spending those few hours a day with them, but I regretted not having the opportunity to stay the entire week with them. Many of our campers were already exclaiming their excitement to participate in Super Star Chef again next summer. The 4-H contact for the Super Star Chef program was so thrilled by the class she asked if we were available for other camps, but unfortunately the summer was already booked. Perhaps next year 4-H could consider asking some of the Super Star Chef participants from this summer to teach the class at each camp next summer!
This week was a whirlwind! Not only was I busy polishing out the details for my big summer project (waaaait for it!), but it was also fair week in Fayette County. My agent and I headed out to the fair grounds to help set-up and organize. It is always nice to get out of the office, and strangely enough I find it refreshing to do a little bit of manual labor. By manual labor I simply mean moving and arranging tables, assembling a flag with no instruction manual, and helping a guild of quilters build quilt racks.
Extension....always keeping me on my toes!!
I had the honor of judging the different categories of canned goods. In the beginning of my internship, I assisted in judging the canned goods submitted to the Nicholas County fair, so it was interesting to experience the flip-side of this process. I found that categorizing the canned goods was actually more challenging than judging. The strangest canned product we had submitted was called Kool-Aid Pickles, where the contestant added fruit punch flavored Kool-Aid mix to her pickling cucumbers.
We also had some beautifully crafted hand-woven baskets submitted for judging, however, we called in the professionals for this competition. The women who traveled to Fayette County to judge the baskets were experts, and knew each design name on sight.
We had so many gorgeous quilts brought to display that I could barely choose which ones to include in my blog! My favorite quilt was a baby blanket, which was designed to resemble a sheet of notebook paper with a child's drawings. The quilter even included the 3-hole punch on the left-hand side of the paper!
My favorite part of the fair was watching baby chicks hatch with the kids who came through the pavilion. I had never learned about how baby chicks grow inside the shell, and I found it surprising that it takes less than a month for them to hatch! It was exhausting watching them chip away at the shell, but very rewarding to see how fast they regain their strength.
We wrapped this week up by visiting Village Branch Library for their "Cooking on a Coin" program. Over the summer I have gotten to know a few of the kids who keep coming back to participate, and they have astonished me with their maturity and genuine interest. Their cooking skills have notably improved, and hopefully we have taught them a few things about budgeting, reading labels, and being health conscious.
It does not seem possible that the summer is already over! The past couple of months have provided me with so many amazing experiences, all of which have taught me something new, as well as honed my personal and professional skills. At this point in time I felt ready to tackle my Big Summer Project, which I intentionally saved for my final blog post. Stay tuned to read about my week-long experience teaching the Top Chef program (designed by yours truly) at Camp Carnegie in downtown Lexington!
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.
A collection of stories as an intern with University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension, providing community-based nutrition education services.