Teresa Wiemerslage is the ISU Extension Region 4 communications and program coordinator working with the Northeast Iowa Farm to School program, which connects schools with their local agricultural communities. Part of the program involves engaging high school students as farm-to-school educators. These older students teach younger students about local foods. Teresa says:
We’ll be visiting Turkey Valley School to watch them do their cross-age teaching lessons. Cross-age teaching is one of the components that we use to help bring some of that nutrition and local food education directly into the classroom.
ISU Extension and Outreach staff have prepared a lesson. … The students practice the lesson and then they go into the classroom. They are going to lead an activity — some sort of physical activity, some type of hands-on activity — and then (the younger students) get to taste the food that they’re talking about.
Stephanie Conant is a Food Corps Service Member who works with the farm-to-school youth educators. Stephanie says:
They’re taking that message into elementary school classrooms today, specifically a second grade classroom, where they can empower those who are younger than them. Schools are really centers of community and the wellness team here is really dedicated. Turkey Valley is a wonderful, wonderful school. I come in simply as an aide, an extra hand.
They’ll go into the classroom and then afterward, I get to be that person who says, “You are a natural teacher,” because so many of them are wonderful examples of teachers and good mentors for these students.
The youth educators enjoy their role.
Will Kuhner says:
You can see all the kids, they’re eating the food and they’re smiling. ... A lot of them have a new found liking for that certain food.
John Hageman says:
Today we did our jumping jacks and hopping in place, running in place. They always get so into it, and it’s just fun to see them get exercise at the same time they’re having fun.
Rebekah Shindlar says:
I think they really enjoy seeing upper classmen that they look up to … having someone closer to their age to teach them.
Austin Vrzak says:
It’s cool to have them looking up to you … it’s cool to have them say “hi” at lunch. It makes me feel good about myself.
Nicole Meirick says:
I love helping the little kids. I feel like they’re really getting something out of it, and they’re learning new things. I like bringing that to them.
Those initial discussions with Extension brought many people to the table. Extension served as a catalyst to be able to bring those people together to talk about different roles that they can play in this work.
We create a bond between those younger students and the older students. By going in every month and having that interaction and that relationship with an older youth role model, we’re finding that the younger students are really captivated and enthralled and develop a really neat relationship with those students in their school.