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Food brings greater understanding to international cultures

5 Extension staff members winning award

URBANA, Ill – A team of Illinois Extension 4-H youth development educators flipped the traditional learning experience with an innovative outreach program that earned the University of Illinois Extension Excellence in Innovation Award.

“Culture, Cuisine, Conversation” is a hands-on self-paced virtual learning program that explores the cooking and cuisine traditions of six countries. Extension educators work with international partners, both adults and youth, to create videos of kitchen and grocery store tours and authentic recipe demonstrations.

The program was developed by Jamie Boas, Alcha Corban, Sara Marten, Myla Munro, and Mynda Tracy, all central Illinois 4-H youth development educators, who were honored during the 2022 Illinois Extension Annual Conference held in November in Urbana.

“There is a growing need to build youth’s capacity to embrace diverse audiences and thrive in a global society,” says Marten. “Learning about cultures around the world allows youth to break down barriers and build bridges beyond their current social environment.”

Travel restrictions and high costs make international travel out of reach for many young people.

“By providing virtual opportunities for youth to connect with people in other countries and other cultures, they develop empathy to understand others and see life from their perspective,” Marten says. “These experiences will allow them to interact in a diverse and global world.”

Every two weeks, participants worked through interactive lessons and made a recipe at their own pace.

“This process of self-paced learning and interaction created a flipped classroom model,” says Marten. At the end of the two-week period, participants joined an online call and reflected on what they learned.

"Kitchens are a lot smaller in other parts of the world than in the U.S.,” one participant says. “Food seems to be a lot fresher in other parts of the world."

Participants also explored food products unique to other countries.

“I learned how to cook with ingredients I’ve never used before,” a participant says.

PHOTO: The team of Extension 4-H youth development educators honored for their innovative programming include, left to right, Jamie Boas, Alcha Corban, Sara Marten, and Myla Munro. They are pictured with Extension Director Shelly NIckols-Richardson, right, during the awards ceremony during the group's Annual Conference in November in Urbana. Not present was Mynda Tracy.

ABOUT EXTENSION: Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to changes and opportunities.

WRITER: Judy Mae Bingman, Extension Communications Advisor and Web Content Strategist
SOURCE: Elisha Hughes, Extension Workforce Professional and Training Development Associate