August 2014 // Volume 52 // Number 4
Bad Style Habits: Utilize & Purpose of
In "Bad Style Habits: Utilize & Purpose of," I point out two of my least favorite style habits. In "August JOE," I highlight the three Commentaries, including the fourth Commentary JOE is publishing this year to commemorate the Smith-Lever Act Centennial, two articles on citizen science, and three on Google.
4-H Youth Development: The Past, the Present, and the Future
The 4-H Program within Cooperative Extension is more than 100 years old. As we celebrate 100 years of Cooperative Extension, the foundation built by the 4-H Program serves as grounds to meet the needs of today's youth. The diversity of the youth who participate continues to grow, families continue to become less traditional, potential volunteers' time continues to shrink, and the growing number of digital devices steal time. These changes demand 4-H adapt and innovate to remain relevant. This commentary examines the role that 4-H Youth Development will play in the next 100 years to face these challenges.
Participate in the JOE Discussion Forum on "4-H Youth Development: The Past, the Present, and the Future"
Moving Beyond the Program: Incorporating Healthy Living Behaviors Throughout 4-H
A recent national needs assessment of 4-H professionals and volunteers described the need to incorporate a holistic view of healthy living throughout all 4-H programs, thereby promoting healthy lifestyles in all clubs, camps, conferences, projects, events, etc. This commentary issues a challenge to optimize the 4-H environment for healthy living and provides practical ideas to achieve that greater vision, for better living.
Participate in the JOE Discussion Forum on "Moving Beyond the Program: Incorporating Healthy Living Behaviors Throughout 4-H"
The Role of Evaluation in Determining the Public Value of Extension
Extension has developed a strong evaluation culture across the system for the last 15 years. Yet measures are still limited to the private value of programs, looking at problems in a linear way and at isolated efforts. Across the country, Extension evaluators and administrators need to step up to help answer the "so what?" question about complex issues and related programming through stronger evaluation that leads to articulating the public value of Extension work.
Participate in the JOE Discussion Forum on "The Role of Evaluation in Determining the Public Value of Extension"
Ideas at Work
Enhancing Volunteer Effectiveness with Google Apps
Today's Extension volunteers provide many services once provided by professional staff. Volunteers need the same communication tools that Extension professionals use. For many land-grant institutions and county Extension offices, this is logistically difficult and cost prohibitive. Google Apps gives all Extension volunteers free access to email, instant messaging, telephone services, voice mail, and file storage and retrieval. These tools will enhance every volunteer's ability to plan, execute, and assess results of any event or activity. Extension professionals should explore the technology needs of volunteers, encourage volunteers to explore Google Apps, and help volunteers use these tools in their volunteer roles.
Making Rapid Change: Leaning 4-H
Nationwide, Extension is restructuring and searching for efficiencies due to reduced funding. When American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds became available, the Iowa 4-H program used the funding allocated to support training the administrative team and key staff to improve 4-H statewide processes. Building a "lean" culture of streamlining processes and eliminating waste through the use of kaizen events helped redirect funding for priority work, as well as create team spirit.
Citizen Science as a REAL Environment for Authentic Scientific Inquiry
Citizen science projects can serve as constructivist learning environments for programming focused on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) for youth. Attributes of rich environments for active learning (REALs) provide a framework for design of Extension STEM learning environments. Guiding principles and design strategies for the University of Minnesota Extension's Driven to Discover: Enabling Authentic Inquiry through Citizen Science project demonstrate how education and investigations grounded in real-world citizen science projects can capitalize on REAL environments to generate meaningful STEM learning. Positive evaluation results support the efficacy of the design for enhancing youth science identity and practice.
Forestry Tour Educates Youth in North Central Idaho
The Clearwater County Sixth Grade Forestry Tour is a unique 3-day, 2-night program that provides participants an objective view of the importance and impact of natural resource-based industries while promoting an understanding of issues regarding natural resource uses. The targeted audience is 6th grade youth, but others interested in natural resources also attend. The tour is sponsored by monetary donations from the logging industry, businesses, and private individuals. Participants camp in the woods, tour the Clearwater Bioregion, and engage with natural resource professionals who use visual aids and hands-on educational approaches. Outcomes indicate a 32% increase in knowledge.
Feedlot Nutritionist Boot Camp: An Intensive Short-Course for Commercial Agriculture Graduate Students
In the digital age, face-to-face meetings combining didactic and experiential learning are valuable. Beef cattle nutrition graduate students (n = 33) from 11 universities attended a 5-day feedlot nutrition and management short-course. Topics included nutrition, veterinary medicine, feedmill maintenance, and management of the financial and human aspects of the feedyard business. Practicing feedlot industry professionals provided the training. In addition, students completed an interactive, team-oriented assignment. Students gleaned a greater comprehension of the intersection between the scientific theory learned in the university and the very application of that theory.
An Extension Education Program to Help Local Governments with Flood Adaptation
Education is an important tool to increase the capacity of local government officials for community flood adaptation. To address flood adaptation and post-flood stream management in municipalities, Cornell Cooperative Extension and collaborators developed an educational program to increase municipal officials' knowledge about how to work effectively in streams after a flood. Overall, the program significantly increased knowledge of stream science, post-flood stream response, and structural techniques. To increase the effectiveness of the programs, future workshops should strive to increase participant knowledge retention over time and actively recruit participants with a low level of starting knowledge of streams and flooding.
I-WALK: An Innovative Approach to Community Walkability
One way of combating rising obesity rates and decreasing physical activity levels among children is to promote active transportation to and from schools. The award-winning I-WALK program provides a comprehensive framework for addressing community walkability and related infrastructure. The program uses a unique and innovative methodology that combines volunteer data collection workshops; classroom-based teacher tallies; and a dynamic Web-based survey that brings parents and children together to discuss school transportation issues. The program's success demonstrates the benefits of coalition-building and community-based participatory research approaches to designing healthy and safe local environments.
Training Materials Developed for Latino Entrepreneurs
This article describes the materials and training program that Extension created to assist current and potential Latino immigrant entrepreneurs in starting businesses in Arkansas. The content-based educational materials describe the process for starting a new business, government regulatory requirements, start-up costs and considerations, and how to organize important documents. All items were designed with the ultimate goal of providing business owners with worksheets and an organizational system that can be used to write a business plan.
Taking Care of You: Body, Mind, Spirit—A Unique Stress Management Program That Improves Lifestyle Behaviors
Taking Care of You: Body, Mind, Spirit is a multi-session group program developed by University of Missouri Extension that provides a unique and practical approach to helping adults better managing their stress and bounce back from life's challenges while improving lifestyle behaviors. The program combines mindfulness and a variety of other research-based positive psychology concepts and strategies as well as holistic wellness concepts. As a result of the program, participants' stress levels significantly decreased and health behaviors significantly improved. This is one of very few stress management programs to show significant improvements in lifestyle behaviors.
Tools of the Trade
Google Search Mastery Operators
In a time when information is so readily available, how is it that high-quality information can be so difficult to find? As it turns out, every 2 days we create as much information as we did from the beginning of time until 2003 (Siegler, 2010). Google operators refine search results to increase quality and relevance. Operators are symbols or words that, when added to search terms, distill the most germane results. Mastery of Google Search operators will empower Extension professionals with a better ability to find information to answer client questions and conduct research.
Google Earth: Low-Investment GIS for Extension Professionals
Extension professionals need geospatial and remote sensing solutions that meet their varied needs; however, training time and funding for expensive software packages can be limited. Google Earth is a freely available, user-friendly GIS that can meet many of the day-to-day needs of Extension professionals by providing high-quality current and historical aerial photography, length and area measurement tools, GPS integration, and simple mapping capabilities. Third-party add-ons can increase the somewhat limited capabilities of Google Earth. Google Earth's general accessibility also lends itself to innovative, collaborative uses with clients, youth, and the general public.
A Guide to Help Consumers Choose Apps and Avoid App Overload
Mobile technology has transformed the way consumers access and use information. The exponential growth of mobile apps makes finding suitable, easy-to-use nutrition and health-related apps challenging. A guide for consumers helps them ask important questions before downloading apps. The guide can be adapted for other Extension disciplines.
Improving Food Safety Knowledge Through an Online Training Program
Foodborne illness is a major public health concern in the U.S. The CDC estimates that approximately 48 million Americans become ill, 128,000 hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne illnesses annually. Most of these illnesses are attributed to improper food handling. To meet the growing demand for food safety training, the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service developed an online course to educate food handlers in food safety best practices. Since 2008, over 7,200 food service workers have completed the online course, demonstrating that such a tool can be can used to expand Extension's outreach to this important audience.
Participatory Research: A Tool for Extension Educators
Given their positions in communities across the United States, Extension educators are poised to have meaningful partnerships with the communities they serve. This article presents a case for the use of participatory research, which is a departure from more conventional forms of research based on objectivity, researcher distance, and social control over the research process. Participatory research embraces principles such as equitable relations between the researcher and study participants, the production of knowledge, and reflexivity. This article details these principles in more detail and offers some practical applications for Extension educators.
Developing an On-Farm Research Network: Published Work for Peers and Producers
The Ohio State University Extension Agronomic Crops Team has a committee providing leadership to coordinate an on-farm research network. The network has been developed to provide needs assessment, peer review, and reporting of on-farm research. The research protocols originate from locally driven needs and stakeholder focus groups. The network includes county-based Extension professionals working with cooperating farms, county-owned farms operated by Extension professionals, and university-owned research facilities. The network uses team members for their strengths and specializations to fortify the research effort. The research results are online and searchable by Extension professionals and farmers. The team website is: http://agcrops.osu.edu
Addressing Next Generation Science Standards: A Method for Supporting Classroom Teachers
The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) will define science education for the foreseeable future, yet many educators struggle to see the bridge between current practice and future practices. The inquiry-based methods used by Extension professionals (Kress, 2006) can serve as a guide for classroom educators. Described herein is a method of taking a simple graphing exercise and turning it into a youth-led activity that addresses Practice 4 of the NGSS.
Hybrid Food Preservation Program Improves Food Preservation and Food Safety Knowledge
The growing trend in home food preservation raises concerns about whether the resulting food products will be safe to eat. The increase public demand for food preservation information led to the development of the comprehensive food preservation program, Preserve the Taste of Summer (PTTS). PTTS is a comprehensive hybrid food preservation program comprised of online lessons and corresponding in-person workshops. PTTS participants reported increases in knowledge about food preservation food safety and recommended food preservation techniques after participating.
The Use of Energizers to Reinforce Nutrition Concepts and Encourage Physical Activity
Given the importance of including daily physical activity as a part of a healthy lifestyle, Extension educators should do as much as they can to incorporate physical activity into their educational programming. A University of Minnesota Extension team has created a set of activities that incorporate motion to reinforce nutrition concepts, which can be adapted by educators to almost any topic. Initial evidence suggests incorporating these activities is both effective and reasonably easy. With appropriate time and space, these energizers can be used to increase participants' physical activity, as well as reinforce lesson concepts and make class more fun.
Three Soil Quality Demonstrations for Educating Extension Clientele
There is a renewed interest in educating youth, Master Gardeners, and agricultural producers about soil quality. Three soil demonstrations show how soil organic matter increases water holding capacity, improves soil structure, and increases nutrient retention. Exercise one uses clay bricks and sponges to represent mineral soils and soil organic matter and how soil water is retained. Exercise two demonstrates how soil organic matter cushions the soil to resist soil compaction and improves soil structure. Exercise three uses marbles to represent how soil nutrients are retained by soil organic matter. These demonstrations are useful within a classroom or as field exercises.
Learnings and Recommendations to Advance 4-H Science Readiness
The case study investigation reported here assessed California 4-H professionals' understanding of the essential components of effective 4-H Science programming as established by the National 4-H Science Mission Mandate. Using the 4-H Science Checklist as the basis for defining 4-H Science Readiness, academic and program staff were surveyed and interviewed to determine their understanding of what constitutes effective science programming in 4-H and their capacity to deliver science professional development and programs. Results indicated a need to build staff capacity relative to 4-H Science in California and outcomes may have implications for 4-H professionals nationally.
Promising Practices of Dairy, Horse, and Livestock Evaluation Career Development Event Coaches: A Mixed-Methods Study
The present study describes promising practices of successful dairy, horse, and livestock judging coaches. Expert coaches were interviewed regarding previous experience, coaching philosophy, coaching objectives, coaching style, and advice. Twenty-seven promising practices and eight themes were identified from the interviews. A questionnaire was sent to the accessible population of coaches to determine practice usage and relationship to youth performance. Influential and motivating practices were found to be most used by coaches. Youth performance was related to use of competitive and expectancy related promising practices. Findings suggest use of promising practices would facilitate greater coaching success in competition and youth development.
A Global Worldview Among Extension Professionals: A Case Study of Best Practices for Study Abroad Programs
Globalization and diversifying communities in the United States mandate internationally minded Extension professionals and programming. The knowledge necessary for successfully working in international agricultural and Extension education is vast and takes time to acquire. A catalyst for this learning process is participation in university- or Extension-led study abroad programs. The study reported here affirms the value of best practices for study abroad programs. A Texas A&M University study abroad program to Guatemala provided additional activities before, during, and after the experience to enhance best practices in study abroad programs and to promote the preparation of future and current Extension professionals.
Exploring Extension Involvement in Farm to School Program Activities
The study reported here examined Extension professionals' involvement in farm-to-school program activities. Results of an online survey distributed to eight state Extension systems indicate that on average, Extension professionals are involved with one farm to school program activity, with most supporting school or community garden programs. Results also indicate that Extension professionals are interested in being involved with an average of four farm to school program activities. Results demonstrate that each Extension program area is currently involved and is interested in supporting farm to school through a variety of different activities.
Evaluation of the eOrganic Webinar Program
eOrganic evaluated webinars on organic agriculture topics to assess the size and composition of the audience, how attendees heard about webinars, webinar quality and utility, whether participants use other eOrganic resources, and the impact on farmer and advisory practices. Results showed that eOrganic webinars reached their target audience. An average of 97% of respondents indicated that the webinars improved their understanding of the topics to some degree, and 96% intended to apply information to their work to some degree. Follow-up surveys on a subset of webinars revealed that they influenced changes in farming and advisory practices.
Use of Demonstration Gardens in Extension: Challenges and Benefits
Extension agents' use of demonstration gardens was studied to determine how gardens are employed in horticultural programming, perceived benefits and challenges of using gardens for Extension programming, and desired competencies. Gardens are primarily used to enhance educational efforts by providing hands-on learning experiences. Greatest perceived benefits of gardens were their effectiveness as an educational delivery method, as well as their ability to provide opportunities for meaningful volunteer service and facilitate the development of partnerships. Greatest perceived challenges were availability of time, money, and volunteer support. Findings support the use of gardens as an appropriate educational strategy for Extension programming.
Positive Quality of Life Factors Identified from EFNEP Participant Stories
EFNEP collects stories from participants and educators regarding the program's impacts. The objective of the study reported here was to qualitatively analyze these stories in the context of quality of life. Researchers analyzed 1,057 stories by identifying key words and developing codes to best describe the information. After analysis, codes were grouped into themes. The research demonstrated that EFNEP is perceived to have positively affected the quality of life of participants. These results not only confirm broader EFNEP benefits, but suggest an additional variable (quality of life) to consider as a measureable outcome.
Should Physical Activity Be Included in Nutrition Education? A Comparison of Nutrition Outcomes With and Without In-Class Activities
Limited-resource adults' dietary intakes and nutrition behaviors improve as a result of Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP)/Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) participation; however, physical activity education is needed for improved health. The experimental study reported here assessed if spending time doing physical activity education affected dietary impact results and activity among participants. Standard dietary assessments showed no significant differences between groups, and interviews showed greater physical activity improvements/intentions by the experimental group, which suggests that nutrition education can be shortened 15-20 minutes for physical activity demonstrations to improve activity behaviors without adversely affecting nutrition-related behavioral improvements outcomes.
Research in Brief
A Participatory Approach to FCS Food, Nutrition, and Wellness Program Planning
To help fill programming gaps in a more organized and collaborative manner, a participatory approach to program planning was tested in Virginia. Programming gaps related to food, nutrition, and wellness programs were filled through a participatory process that involved: an online needs assessment survey; a systematic review of evidence- and practice-based programs; a webinar providing an overview of possible programs for adoption; a program ranking survey; development of an evaluation template; a training; and feedback survey. Our results indicate that a systematic, team-based approach to program planning may be beneficial in guiding trainings and dissemination of programs within Extension.
Low Vitamin D Status and Inadequate Nutrient Intakes of Elementary School Children in a Highly Educated Pacific Northwest Community
Are Extension healthy youth programs needed in highly educated U.S. communities? To answer this question, 175 children from four public elementary schools in Corvallis, Oregon, self-reported in a cross-sectional study their dietary intake, and 71 children provided a blood sample for measuring vitamin D concentrations. Most children had insufficient blood vitamin D and reported a diet insufficient in fiber, essential fatty acids, potassium, and vitamin E and excessive in saturated fatty acids and sodium. Our data indicate a need for Extension to provide youth programs in highly educated U.S. communities to improve nutrient intakes and vitamin D status in children.
Buffering Negative Impacts of Divorce on Children: Evaluating Impact of Divorce Education
Following the call for more stringent evaluation methodology and recently documented national Extension presence in the field of divorce education for parents and children, the study reported here describes a local multi-level evaluation to capture program impact of a stakeholder-accepted divorce education program. Using a post-then-pre retrospective scale and validated measures of inter-parental conflict and child adjustment, participants showed significant gains in key co-parenting and community resources knowledge and significant decreases in inter-parental conflict. Selected components of the evaluation design are applicable to Extension faculty working in divorce education programs.
Parenting Needs as Perceived by Agency Personnel Working with Parents and Young Children in Southern Nevada
Extension educators have used different methods to collect information for a needs assessment, including advisory committees, survey questionnaires, focus groups, interviews with key informants, or a combination of the former. This article describes the use of key informant interviews (agency personnel working with parents and young children) that investigated concerns about parents and needs of parents in their community, and summarizes issues uncovered related to family, agency, and community. Results identify important implications for the development of parenting programming with parents of young children and more in-depth future parenting education research.
Using Citizen Scientists to Evaluate Light Traps for Catching Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs in Homes in Virginia
More and more, citizen scientists are playing an integral role in research studies. This has been particularly evident as entomologists unravel the biology, spread, and management of the brown marmorated stink bug, which has plagued many homeowners in the mid-Atlantic U.S. in recent years. We used citizen scientists to evaluate different indoor light traps for catching the bugs in houses. Throughout the late winter and early spring months, these traps were tested inside homes and enabled us to determine that the most efficacious trap was an aluminum foil water pan trap, developed by—you guessed it—a citizen scientist.
Internet Use for Small Businesses: Does It Matter?
Should small businesses invest time and effort in online presence strategies? Results from the study reported here indicate that younger and smaller businesses benefit, with higher revenues from implementing an online presence strategy over time. The implications for Extension educators include expanding their digital literacy programming to assist small businesses and entrepreneurs in their communities.