Teens as Teachers program coming to county

School News Monroe CountyA new program designed to help both teens and young students has come to Monroe County through the University of Illinois Extension Office and 4-H.

Teens as Teachers is a state-wide 4-H program designed to help teens use their knowledge and skills to teach younger students in certain subject areas.

Ashley Wetzler, extension educator and 4-H development coordinator for the extension office, said this program gives teens the opportunity to teach younger kids about subjects like agriculture, health and other science categories.

“We are founded on science and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math),” Wetzler said. “Everything we do is honed around those components.”

Wetzler said this program has been successful in other parts of the state since its origin a few years ago and she wanted to bring it to Monroe County.

“Leadership opportunities are important for teens, and this gives them a lot of skills they can apply to the rest of their lives,” Wetzler said.

To be a part of this program, teens will go through a training process that involves team-building, icebreakers, lesson planning and how to deliver a lesson.

She said prospective Teens as Teachers do not have to know a lot of content, because 4-H works on experiential learning, where teens are doing activities, reflecting on them and then learning how to apply them to real life.

“We hope that will carry on throughout the future,” she said.

Wetzler has partnered with the Monroe County Farm Bureau for this program because they have the “Ag in the Classroom” component.

“They’re looking for teens to help them, and I was looking for teens to help with after-school programs, so this is perfect,” she said. “4-H is embedded in the program.”

Teens as Teachers is part of a SPIN (special interest) club, so they will focus on teaching.

“We’ll pair up with after-school programs and the library and they’ll have the opportunity to go in and teach,” Wetzler said. “They’ll teach six lessons, which is part of a SPIN club requirement.”

Wetzler said many people have misconceptions about 4-H, and this may help dispel some of those myths.

“We want to get into the classrooms and bring awareness of agriscience and science in general,” she said. “I feel that a lot of kids are intimidated by science, so I’m hoping they’ll find a passion and explore it here.”

She said robotics has been a big hit, and special interests and hobbies like that can factor into this program.

“Whatever you’re passionate about, you can go and incorporate it into any after-school program,” she said. “You don’t have to become a 4-H member, but being involved in this can help you become a member if you wish.”

She is looking for teens who are passionate and committed to the opportunity.

“They’ll be representing the Ag in the Classroom extension, Farm Bureau and 4-H program,” she said. “We do have high standards and want teens who are committed.”

To kickoff the Teens as Teachers program, Wetzler is hosting an informational meeting from 5:30 to 7 p.m. this Thursday at the Monroe County Extension Office in Waterloo.

The meeting is open to Monroe County youth in grades 9 to 12, and pizza will be provided.

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