4-H T.E.A.M: Teens as Teachers Program ignites a spark in Winner

Farm Forum

BROOKINGS – As the Winner, South Dakota 4-H T.E.A.M members sat down to set their goals they never imagined the impact the 4-H program would have on their local community.

“They knew that they wanted to promote eating fresh fruits/vegetables, increase physical activity, and improve health and safety within their school and community. However they never realized they would be able to reach over 3,000 students and community members directly and expose thousands more through the media,” said Audrey Rider, 4-H Youth Leadership Field Specialist.

The back story

Students, 4-H Advisors, and local teachers from 11 school districts were trained in the 4-H T.E.A.M model, created by SDSU Extension, 4-H Youth Development Field Specialists as a model to incorporate programs like Teens as Teachers. 4-H Field Specialists, Suzy Geppert, Audrey Rider, and Andrea Klein conducted the training.

Winner Teens utilized the training received to carry out lessons on a weekly basis for 10 weeks incorporating physical activity into each lesson provided to 3rd grade classrooms and the local After School program. Elementary students tracked their miles throughout the school year reaching over 6,000 miles.

“I am amazed at the support and dedication the Winner teens and community members put in to this program. They struggled with weather issues throughout the school year and still persevered to completion,” said Suzy Geppert, SDSU Extension 4-H Youth Partnership Field Specialist. “Not only did they hit the classrooms but they took their information one step further through the “Healthy Living Challenge” component of the program.”

Geppert adds that the teens developed leadership skills that will last them a lifetime.

“Students must have skills and knowledge necessary to be good citizens, effective parents, productive workers, and life-long learners,” Geppert said. “Companies can train their workers; however these workers need to come to the company with the character and youth development experiences that can be built upon to create a total package of technical education, character in working with diversity and service learning. These programs will develop those life skills providing a workforce with candidates that possess qualities of confidence, leadership, initiative, motivation, reliability and a positive attitude.”

What is SD 4-H T.E.A.M.?

The SD 4-H T.E.A.M. model was designed as a tool to enhance 4-H youth development through the completion of a three tier process. Each Tier builds upon experience received in prior tiers, in turn creating future leaders for tomorrow.

“This model allows youth to make a difference within their communities and schools. It allows them the opportunity to problem solve and plan by developing and carrying out community service activities, creating lesson plans relevant to South Dakota Education Standards and Character Education Standards and participate in various leadership roles that prepare them for a successful future. It works really well in programs like 4-H Teens as Teachers,” Rider said.

As a high school teacher, Kris Brockhoft was impressed with the program’s effectiveness.

“When we started this project we did not know the impact it would have on our students and community,” said Brockhoft, a Winner High School teacher/advisor. “The Teens as Teachers T.E.A.M. program integrated into the Winner High School curriculum provided a meaningful way for students, teachers, administrators, and community members to move forward with deliberate thought and action towards a common goal that benefited everyone involved.”

“Through this diverse program, designing and implementing lessons and events, students created meaningful experiences, and applied knowledge, skills and behaviors necessary to cope in the real world. In addition students gained positive academic, social, civic, and skill development. Students developed employability skills while exploring numerous career options. Students learned to appreciate the value of civic responsibility by actively participating in their community,” Brockhoft said.

Brockhoft says experience has made school and education more relevant for the 4-H T.E.A.M student participants.

“It has been a pleasure watching these students blossom and develop previously untapped strengths. Something real and concrete occurred. As students engaged intellectually and emotionally with their topics, they lit up and connected to their students. What they have learned engages their heart and mind, and sharing it with others is the ultimate gift. This has been a unique opportunity for these students to collaborate with school and community partners to share their expertise and develop life-long relationships. Student relationships were evident as TAT teachers randomly met students in a community setting. Elementary students were excited and introduced the TAT student to their parents as one of their “teachers.” These moments are priceless.”

For more information on how your school, community, or organization can get involved contact Suzy Geppert, 4-H Youth Partnerships Field Specialist at or call the SDSU Extension Regional Center in Pierre at 605-773-8120.