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After-school program benefits from school, 4-H collaboration

4-H'er Elizabeth Erwin (left) and Nobles County 4-H Program Coordinator Katie Klosterbuer (right) assist kids in the afterschool Dragon Adventures program design and create their own miniature version of a barn quilt Wednesday at Adrian Elementary School. (Julie Buntjer / The Globe)1 / 3
-H youth leader Kendra Frodermann (at left) helps lead a craft project during Dragon Adventures Wednesday at Adrian Elementary School. Frodermann was teaching the kids how to design and create a barn quilt using foam pieces. (Julie Buntjer / The Globe)2 / 3
Kendra Frodermann (at right) shows the barn quilt she designed and painted as a 4-H project last summer. She talked to students about the design, and then helped lead a craft project in which the students made their own miniature barn quilt from foam pieces. (Julie Buntjer / The Globe)3 / 3

ADRIAN — After most of their peers had boarded school buses or begun their walk home Wednesday, the pint-sized participants of Dragon Adventures ran off some of their excess energy, grabbed a carton of milk and frosted cinnamon roll and tried to settle in for a lesson in barn quilt design.

The after-school program has been going strong for about 15 years, according to Adrian Elementary Principal Russ Lofthus. It was initially established through a Family Connections collaborative grant, though student fees now cover the costs for programming.

Three and a half years ago, with the hiring of Jessica Dibbern as after school program coordinator, Dragon Adventures expanded from two days per week to five days per week. They meet for about an hour and a half after school.

Shortly thereafter, Dibbern and Nobles County 4-H Program Coordinator Katie Klosterbuer began a conversation about expanding 4-H’s involvement with Dragon Adventures.

Initially, 4-H provided programming only during National 4-H Week as a way to promote the youth leadership organization. With Dibbern and Klosterbuer teaming up, 4-H now provides the lesson plan every Wednesday.

“4-H is a big part of our district,” said Lofthus, adding that the growing collaboration with the youth organization has worked well.

Each Wednesday, Adrian High School juniors Elizabeth Erwin and Kendra Frodermann transition from students to craft teachers, song leaders and leadership builders as they work with more than a dozen kids, many of them kindergarteners.

The teens use the skills they’ve learned as 4-H Ambassadors, youth leaders and camp counselors to guide the weekly program. This week, they taught students how to design and create their own barn quilt.

Frodermann, who created a barn quilt on a wood slab last summer as a 4-H craft project, used the project as an example of how students could design and make their own miniature barn quilt.

Noting that blue is a favorite color in her family, Frodermann told the kids how she sat in front of the paint section at a hobby store and began eliminating colors to come up with five complementing shades — three in blue, along with white and gray.

When it was time for the kids to create their own project, they scattered between cafeteria tables and began reaching for brightly colored foam pieces for their design. Frodermann and Erwin helped contain the chaos and keep the kids on task.

“The teens run with it — it’s a youth-teaching-youth opportunity,” said Klosterbuer, who works with Erwin and Frodermann to identify topics and discuss lesson plans.

Each week, the program is different. Sometimes they do STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) activities, and there have been sessions on foods and nutrition, communication and team building. Erwin and Frodermann also introduce the students to new games and teach them songs they learned at 4-H camp.

This is the third year the teens have volunteered their time to lead the afterschool program.

Klosterbuer said the collaboration has led to two students joining the 4-H Cloverbuds program, which is open to children in kindergarten through second grade. There’s been talk of dually enrolling students in Dragon Adventures and Nobles County 4-H, but that hasn’t happened yet, she added.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at The Farm Bleat

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