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EDUCATOR SPOTLIGHT: Sonya McDaniel
Although my formal education background is in the area of Human Development and Family Studies, major programming in my county focuses on nutrition education most of the time. Youth and adult nutrition education includes workshops series using USDA Eat Healthy Be Active curriculum and the 4-H Fantastic Foods program. Providing hands-on activities, for participants both big and small, are always a priority to help reinforce learning objectives for making healthy choices. Recently, I have added a super market tour to the end of my workshop series for adults. This helps teach about healthy choices and stretching the food dollar in a more applicable setting. Evaluation results have shown at the end of a program, 99% of students reported making changes in their eating habits and increasing their activity level. The majority reported they would make different choices when eating out, were more likely to read food labels before making a purchase and choose healthier cooking methods. To youth become more invested in learning objectives we have added the 4-H Food Showdown contest to the end of our nutrition learning series. As they participate in the learning workshops they are preparing to compete in the cooking contest which uses all of their new skills.
Along with in depth learning workshops the Extension Service also provides cooking demonstrations at the Farmers Market to encourage more fruit and vegetable consumption. We also host Foodie Friday the first Friday of the month which teaches a short lesson on healthy eating or cooking techniques with a food demonstration to enhance the lesson. For those unable to participate in our “live” workshops our OSU Pottawatomie County Extension Facebook page provides nutrition tips, food safety information and healthy recipes.
I chose to be an Extension Educator after working with an educator through a previous job. I really liked the idea of working with youth and adults to enhance their daily lives. Since every day is different, I knew it would be exciting and challenging. I wanted to be involved in the community and working with others to solve issues effecting children and families.
I stay passionate about what I do because of the consumers and audiences I work with daily. Seeing differences they make for themselves based on new knowledge they received from me is very rewarding, even if it is very small at times! Another way I stay excited about my job is change. Since my programming is responsive to community needs those needs change over time so I am doing and learning something new all the time. If there is something I want to do differently to better meet the needs of my community, I do it. It is hard to get tired or bored in this work environment.