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Teaching youth to cook: Teen teaching is the name of the game for Illinois Extension

Youth participate in the teen teacher program

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – This summer, teens from Kankakee and Will counties converged in Bourbonnais for a two-month intensive training led by University of Illinois Extension 4-H called Teen Teachers.  The goal? To educate youth ages 5-8 about making good nutritional choices and how to cook healthy foods.

“Using the elements of positive youth development such as belonging, independence, generosity, and mastery, teens were taught to be effective teachers and mentors,” says Shannon Range, 4-H youth development educator for Grundy, Kankakee, & Will Counties, “It was great to witness teens develop into great teachers and give back to a younger generation.”

Teens learned how to become successful teen teachers, then taught youth ages five to eight how to prepare and cook healthy meals.  Skills learned included mixing foods, measuring dry and liquid ingredients, reading and following recipes, and more.

The combined Teen Teachers and Cloverbud Cooking programs culminated in the trained teens leading the younger participants in making guacamole, mashed potatoes, pudding, butter in a jar, and applesauce, which provided a satisfying snack as the community came together to celebrate their accomplishments.

“As teens share their knowledge and skills with younger youth, great things happen,” says Range, “teens learned a lot about leadership and overall mentorship –invaluable skills for future careers."

4-H impacts youth through inclusive programming the whole family can enjoy, rooted in positive youth development principles.  4-H youth are five times more likely to say they will graduate from college, four times more likely to say they help their communities, and two times more likely to say they are active in school.

For more information about 4-H, visit


SOURCE: Shannon Range, 4-H Youth Development Educator

WRITER: Anthony Warmack, Communications & Marketing Program Coordinator

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ABOUT ILLINOIS 4-H: Illinois 4-H is the flagship youth development program of University of Illinois Extension. 4-H grows true leaders, youth who are empowered for life today and prepared for a career tomorrow. The hands-on approach in 4-H gives young people

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. Illinois Extension is part of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.