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A group of young children excited by learning

Teaching with Passion

(This blog post is fifth in a series recounting a summer internship opportunity for students from UF’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. Collaborating with Martin County 4-H Youth Development and Florida Sea Grant extension agents, this account provides a unique perspective on the career development of young adults into UF/IFAS Extension professionals.)

Countdown to Week 7

Week Seven of the Junior Water Academy came and went like a whirlwind. UF/IFAS interns, Madison and Jess, had their week planned out. Each club meeting would begin with water games – LOTS of water games. The one requirement from their 4-H youth members: make sure we can get wet! And just as they had done for all the weeks prior, the interns provided for happy campers.

The two UF students had come to Martin County on a mission to learn. They built a logic model. Then they compiled their lesson plans. They gathered the supplies they would need. Science-based, peer reviewed resources were a must. And the icing on the cake? A web site which compiled it all in one concise place. Like a great experiment, the Junior Water Academy was tried and found true.

Two women hold a limbo stick as a girl bends to walk under it

Draw a card with an action that conserves water? The limbo stick goes up. Draw a card where you are a water waster, and pay the price of the low limbo stick!

Reflections

Besides learning objectives related to water conservation, marine habitats, food webs, and stormwater runoff, education at five local sites provided real-world experience to the UF interns to explore life as Extension Agents.

“You have to be able to adapt [in a classroom]. This leads to better things than you can imagine if you follow kids’ energy,” reflected Ms. Jess after her experience. “It is really scary knowing you [may] have to change your plans!” Just as many have had to adapt to a rapidly changing world during the COVID-19 pandemic, so have the interns learned to pivot when teaching youth.

One surprise for Ms. Madison was realizing the diversity of 4-H as a program, especially that it operated in more than just rural communities. She commented that her greatest joy during the internship was that it is “never the same job each day. There is no “typical” work day!”, which can be at turns terrifying and wonderful. “Seeing kids “get it”, when the light bulb comes on [for a student] makes me feel so satisfied.” Both UF interns expressed how the “accomplishments of the youth made us feel like we achieved what we set out to do.”

Lighting the Spark

Extension education provides the experiential learning that lights a “spark” in young learners, complementing traditional classrooms or school learning environments. And while we in IFAS know the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is made up of more than its name suggests, the UF interns who helped build Martin County’s Junior Water Academy expressed their joy that their passions and interests could contribute to an amazing Extension program. Although summer 2021 may be in the books, these two interns will carry it with them long into their professional careers.

If you think youth in your area would be interested in resources for the Junior Water Academy (ages 8-12), you may contact Natalie Parkell, Martin County 4-H Youth Development Agent at natalie.parkell@ufl.edu

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