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Training teen teachers


Arianna Fonville talks to a group of Garfield Montessori School students about the characteristics of 5- to 8-year-olds during a Teens as Teachers session Monday.


DECATUR – What can a teacher do when the one-hour presentation she has prepared has to fit into a 30-minute time slot?

Even a veteran teacher could feel a flutter of panic at that, but eighth-grader Kiersten Kennedy had a ready answer.

“Cut the presentation short,” she said. “Hit only the most important points.”

Several eighth-grade Garfield Montessori School students are in training to be Teen Teachers through a grant from the Decatur Family YMCA. The aim is to get kids to “Rethink Your Drink” and steer them away from sugary carbonated drinks and toward healthier choices, said Caitlin Huth, nutrition and wellness educator for the University of Illinois Extension.

“There are times those (sugary) drinks are appropriate,” Huth said. “We want them to think about water.”

The purpose of the program is to help kids understand that a lot of empty calories are in the things they drink.

Over the four-week program, the teens will be trained in a new lesson each week, which they will then present to the other Garfield students. One challenge is to create a competition for each student to drink 64 ounces of water a day and classes that reach that goal will receive a pass to the YMCA

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Huth said she and Courtney Stewart, also of the U of I Extension, could give the presentations over the four-week challenge, but kids are more likely to listen to their peers. That's where the “train the trainer” model works well for Garfield.

To start, Stewart put the students into three groups, gave them paper and markers and asked them to read about the characteristics of kids at certain ages and draw an illustration. Sydney Allen, Carlene Hawkins and Joel Cothern had the 9-to-12 age group and drew people playing basketball. At that age, Carlene said, group activities and sports are a consuming interest, but it's not easy to keep their attention in a classroom.

“They're all about giving you attitude,” Sydney said, and she and Carlene both laughingly acknowledged that they knew this from past personal experience.

The 5-to-8 students, however, are anxious to please and to them, learning is fun, Stewart said.

Another part of the challenge will be to try out recipes for healthy beverages, because the women know that kids won't want to drink plain water. One of the classroom experiments will include a close look at exactly how much sugar is in a typical carbonated drink. For example, a 12-ounce can of regular Mountain Dew contains about a quarter cup.


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