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4-H enhances STEM with new agent

Jay Townsend has been working in education for 15 years with experience in most subjects, but now he is turning his attention to a different path in life as the new Urban 4-H Youth Development Agent.

Townsend will work in Franklin, Colbert and Lauderdale counties with a range of teachers and students to provide hands-on activities.

“I have been a teacher for 15 years, so I have an idea what teachers are able to cover in the classroom and what they need and what they don’t need,” Townsend said. “We are hoping to fill some of the gaps they might have, whether because they are pressed for time or don’t have the funding or the ideas, if they are a new teacher – that is where we hope to be able to help them out.”

Townsend will primarily focus on various STEM activities with students and teachers, but he will also offer programs addressing various problems, such as health or bullying.

Franklin County Extension Director Katernia Cole-Coffey said Townsend brings a lot to the table, which makes him a great fit for Franklin County.

“We are happy to have him on board to help educate all of the different kids in the county,” Cole-Coffey said. “It’s going to give us more educational opportunities to help advance the kids for the different careers in STEM and different agriculture programs.”

Townsend will work with students ages 8 through high school to help incorporate what they learn in the classroom with real-world scenarios.

“I’m looking forward to being back in the classroom and seeing the kids’ faces light up as they have those light bulb moments,” Townsend said.

Townsend said his philosophy is to give students projects where they are challenged so they can learn.

“I want them to have to use the knowledge they have acquired and creativity to figure something out,” Townsend said. “I don’t want it to be them following step-by-step instruction because I want to make sure they are challenged.”

Townsend is working with teachers through online learning programs but said he looks forward to getting back in the classroom with the students as soon as possible.

“There are a lot of things we are working on that I am very excited about,” Townsend said.