What is the YES Program at the St. Louis Science Center? “YES” stands for Youth Exploring Science. The YES Program gets kids from the ages of 14 to 18 engaged in science, technology, engineering and math. The program consists of teens teaching kids younger than them (down to the age of 4) about STEM. The teens use many different activities that keep the younger kids intrigued. YES has a range of various classrooms, broken into what we call “components”. One of those components is Agriscience.

What have the teens in the Agriscience component been doing this summer? I'll tell you. The YES teens have been trying to help kids embrace their inner instinctual side. Do you remember when you were a kid and were fascinated by the simple complexities of the outdoors? Worms could keep me occupied for at least an hour. Me and my brother would find cool looking sticks and be outside for hours just using our imagination. There is so much to be interested in when you step outside. It’s in our human nature to be fascinated by the outdoors. Somewhere along the lines of growing up, people stop spending so much time outside appreciating the cool little things that nature can offer. Playing with worms and insects goes from the coolest thing ever to being absolutely “gross”, making things out of stuff in the backyard becomes “weird”, and pretending to sword fight with sticks gets labeled as “lame”. This summer, the Agriscience YES teens have been helping kids stay connected to their nature loving instincts by teaching them in the outdoors.

On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, the Teens go offsite to a nature reserve in Ladue. The Litzinger Road Ecology Center is home to hundreds of different plants and a range of different animals. The teens get new kids every day. They start off giving a tour of the nature reserve, then come back to an outdoor classroom to teach the students. Research shows that there is a correlation between nature and learning. Being out in nature can actually help kids learn more effectively. The teens teach activities involving observation of skulls and insects. The Skulls activity is to teach kids about the differences between predators and prey. The kids are led to touch and observe the skulls. They try to guess what animal the skull came from by using what they have observed. The teens also teach an activity that has to do with the distinction of insects. The kids are taught about the different body parts that insects have, then prompted to make their own insect. The kids have multiple choice options when it comes to what material they can use. So the kids leave with a higher understanding of animals adapted to their food chain, and what body parts make up an insect. On top of that, the kids leave feeling more comfortable with being outside and inside nature. Not only do the teens get to experience the best parts of nature, but they get to give younger kids some of their best early nature experiences as well.

Atajio Ivy is a 2019 Youth Exploring Science teen with the St. Louis Science Center. To learn more about Youth Exploring Science, visit their website.