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NHMU 50: Youth Teaching Youth
Posted March 24, 2020
“I guess the highlight, in thinking back over the full time I worked there,” recalls former NHMU education curator Beth Steele, “was probably the development of Youth Teaching Youth.” Started after Steele’s arrival in 1993, the landmark initiative is still going strong today. As the Museum looks ahead, it’s worth looking back at how the program got off the ground.
In the beginning, Youth Teaching Youth began as a matter of opportunity. In the early 1990s the Association of Science-Technology Centers was offering funding for youth programming – a relatively new push to involve teenagers as local leaders through museums. The idea immediately appealed to Steele. “I had a strong sense of the value of young people being given responsibility and wanting them to step up and take charge,” Steele says. The invention of a program where middle and high school students would teach their peers about natural history seemed perfect.
Nearby Glendale Middle School soon proved to be the perfect partner. With the funding in place and a Youth Teaching Youth coordinator brought on board, Steele, the Museum, and Glendale worked together to involve students who might benefit from the program.
The initial plan was simple. “The goal was to provide enough background information and education in natural history so that those middle-school youth could then take our teaching kits that we were also in the process of developing at the museum and take those into fourth-grade classrooms around Salt Lake City,” Steele says. The project was a success. “These kids really stepped up,” Steele says, being just the start of an ongoing initiative that has now reached across multiple generations of students. Just this year, in fact, Glendale and YTY alum Isabel Perez-Vega returned to Glendale to unveil the latest ResearchQuest module to one of the school’s 6th grade classes. Youth not only teach youth, but form community connections that span decades.