October 2010 // Volume 48 // Number 5
"Featuring Features" discusses what makes a Feature article and what distinguishes it from a Research in Brief. "October JOE" mentions some interesting pairings in a great issue.
Native Landscaping vs. Exotic Landscaping: What Should We Recommend?
In Extension, many questions are fielded concerning the installation and maintenance of turfgrass and ornamental plants. However, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the cumulative impacts of replacing native habitat with non-native turfgrass and ornamental plants is contributing significantly to the decline of biodiversity in both urban areas and surrounding natural areas. Given the state of our natural environment, perhaps Extension programs should present alternative landscaping approaches to help conserve urban biodiversity.
Participate in the JOE Discussion Forum on “Native Landscaping vs. Exotic Landscaping: What Should We Recommend?”
Ideas at Work
Nutrition Education Program Assistants: A Leverage Point for Collecting Authentic Program Data
Extension administrators and educators wonder why low-income audiences refrain from participating or underparticipate in educational opportunities. This may be due to a gap between administrator or educator views of program participation barriers versus the lived experience of low-income audiences. Virginia Cooperative Extension worked to bridge this gap in perspectives by using Nutrition Program Assistants as a leverage point for recruiting and gathering authentic data on program participation from low-income individuals. Even though program assistants rarely serve in this role, their connection with low-income clientele and groups that serve them is invaluable for gathering authentic program data.
Speaking the Same Language in Paraprofessional Staff Development
Literacy is an important consideration in the development of new staff orientation and ongoing training programs for Extension paraprofessional educators. In a project to develop core competencies for nutrition paraprofessionals, investigators learned that some of the competencies, (developed by a panel of Extension professionals) were not expressed using terminology understood by paraprofessionals. Implications for developing effective training programs include using terminology understood by paraprofessionals, engaging in intentional dialog with paraprofessionals to determine common language, and teaching paraprofessionals new terminology when necessary.
Advance Directives in Extension Services
Few Extension services have incorporated family planning as an offering to clients. This is particularly true as it relates to advance directives, which are generally viewed as highly sensitive. The Southwest Center for Rural Initiatives (Southwest Center), a satellite entity of the Southern University Agricultural Research and Extension Center, started a program where clientele are offered free, private consultations to gain knowledge on advance directives. This serves as an example of the diversity in programs designed to meet the needs of the community, as well as to improve the quality of life for citizens within the Southwest Center's region.
Promoting Dairy Intake in Rural Wisconsin by Empowering Youth
Only 30% of children in the U.S. are currently meeting the Dietary Reference Intake for calcium. A "3-A-Day of Dairy for Stronger Bones" campaign was promoted by older Scouts to younger Scouts in a small rural village in southern Wisconsin. The hypothesis was that by teaching the importance of dairy to younger children, the older children would be empowered to increase their own intake. Knowledge and intake improved for calcium and dairy products in the intervention group as compared with those who were not involved in teaching the younger children. Summer educational programs are needed to encourage dairy consumption.
Reducing Home Heating Costs in One Maine County
Eighty-percent of Maine households heat their homes with fuel oil. Rising home heating costs are creating hardships for many lower income families. The Keep ME Warm Program provided homeowners with the means to reduce their home energy consumption. In Washington County, Extension used the train the trainer model to educate homeowners about energy conservation methods through trained volunteers. As a result, the program helped 164 households save on their heating bills and directly affected over 300 individuals. The train-the-trainer model was an ideal method for delivering effective energy education and could be used throughout the country.
Tools of the Trade
Tips to Create Biodiverse, Urban Communities
Urban landscapes dominated by non-native turfgrass and ornamental plants are contributing to the decline of biodiversity in both urban areas and surrounding natural areas. Given that a majority of people now live in and experience nature in urban areas, landscaping recommendations by Extension professionals should focus on practices that conserve native biodiversity. We present alternative landscaping approaches to help conserve urban biodiversity.
Quiet Leadership: How to Create Positive Change Without the Noise and Negativity
Quiet leadership is a leadership approach useful in dealing with organizational change, according to Joseph L. Badaracco, Jr., author of Leading Quietly: An Unorthodox Guide to Doing the Right Thing. It relies on the three main virtues of tenacity, modesty, and restraint, as well as rests upon six tenets that define one's actions in dealing with organizational issues. Enacting change through small practical efforts is the hallmark of quiet leadership. Adding this tool to one's leadership arsenal will allow for a more complete approach to solving organizational issues and leading change from a positive place.
The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength—A Book Review
Jennifer Kahnweiler's The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength presents a four-step process introverts can use to handle situations in the workplace, such as how to have your voice heard at a meeting. This book brings out concepts such as that introversion is not a disorder and that introverts can bring value to an organization. The book, filled with examples, reinforces the points of the four-step process. Presented is a process to effectively deal with situations where introversion may be preventing you from reaching your goals.
The Important Role Non-Parental Adults Have with Youth Learning Leadership
Adults have a significant influence on the lives of young people. Qualities to look for in finding successful mentors are identified. The role that non-parental adults play in establishing leadership opportunities is explored. Recommendations are made for creating positive relationships with youth.
Team Development and Beyond
Team development and leadership remain important roles for Extension. This article demonstrates how Tuckman's model for small group development can be used to examine the evolution of teams retrospectively for the purpose of improving future practice. Our experience leading Nevada's Nutrition Network serves as the example. Critical points in the evolution of this team are identified and alternative actions are cited.
Volunteer Middle Managers: Human Resources that Extend Programmatic Outreach
Extension professionals must be able to give volunteers programmatic ownership and the resources and education they need to complete their tasks. However, resources are limited, especially in economic downtimes, making it even more necessary to look at creative ways to bridge the gap between what programs and services can and should be delivered. A middle manager program was developed as a tool to more effectively involve volunteer leaders and assist Extension professionals. Eight position descriptions and corresponding planning aids were developed, in addition to an agent strategy to aid Extension professionals in implementing the middle manager program.
Five Social Media Tools for the Extension Toolbox
Social media tools can be used to assist in the dissemination of research-based information. Five social media tools, wikis, blogs, podcasts, Facebook, and YouTube, may extend Extension's educational reach into the community. Extension educators will find social media tools easy to use, readily available on the Internet, free of charge, and an interesting addition to the toolbox of dissemination strategies.
Spider Plots: A Tool for Participatory Extension Learning
Here we demonstrate how spider plots can be used in a participatory fashion to simultaneously assess the performance of agricultural systems. We present how we used spider plots to assess ecosystem services from cover crops at a field day and suggest how the activity can be adapted to other purposes. We conclude by providing recommendations to educators for successfully facilitating a participatory assessment using the spider plot.
Have You Used Clickers in Programming?
Extension agents must provide pertinent programming to their audiences as well as show the impact of their programs. While understanding the audience is a basic tenet of effective public speaking, Extension audiences are not always homogeneous, and typically Extension Agents provide education to participants with different educational levels and life experiences. This article illustrates that Extension educators and their participants can benefit greatly through strategic use of clickers and extends the discussion to the advantages of use for heterogeneous audiences and in applied research. Techniques for using clickers to collect program impact data are discussed.
Ready-to-Go Exhibits Expand Consumer Food Safety Knowledge and Action
Ready-to-go, interactive food safety exhibits were developed to allow Extension Educators the opportunity to communicate the magnitude of food safety risk and to prevent foodborne illness. Four food safety topics were chosen: 1) At‐Risk Groups, 2) Preserving Food, 3) Food Thermometers, 4) Kitchen Safety for Kids. Data collected showed an increase in food safety knowledge and planned behavior change.
Drawing Upon the Wisdom of Merlyn: Using the Logic Chain to Guide Vision-Based Community Planning
A multidisciplinary Ohio State University Extension team and three counties of Appalachian Ohio Family and Children First Council conducted a 10-month planning project working backwards from a shared vision through a logic chain. The logic chain was used to guide the steps in the planning process to build consensus among council members. The article outlines the process and presents a model of strategic planning applicable to any Extension strategic planning process.
WOWnet: A Communication and Networking Model for Women
We interviewed members of Women Owning Woodlands network (WOWnet), an Extension program in Western Oregon and an ideal community to study how women communicate and network. We found that WOWnet women are involved in a variety of natural resource-based organizations. However, WOWnet is unusual because of its small-group, praxis-based approach. If more Extension and forestry organizations followed the WOWnet example of supporting women new to forestry and focusing more on women-centric knowledge, they can become more inclusive of women with diverse interests and backgrounds. Programming that incorporates women-centric knowledge has implications for Extension programs throughout the U.S. and elsewhere.
Engaging Emerging Populations of Adults with Interactive Activities in a 3D Virtual Learning Environment
The Internet, particularly 3D virtual learning environments, has become a venue of choice for many young adults who have grown up in a period of rapidly advancing technology. With this in mind, a 3D virtual kitchen was created to instruct foodservice staff about foodborne hazards. Respondents reported positively about their user experience, the educational content, and the social aspects of the module. The results of this pilot project indicate that engaging young adults with a media in which they feel comfortable is feasible.
Dissemination of Outreach Education Programs: In-Person and Computer-Mediated Strategies
In-person and computer-mediated strategies are used to disseminate Extension programs, but little is known about their relative effectiveness. Using educator surveys, we compared the effectiveness of program dissemination via educator workshops, short presentations, and a DVD in terms of rates and extent of implementation in an urban environmental education program. Workshop participants were more likely to implement programs with youth, although the number of implemented activities did not differ significantly among educator participating in various dissemination strategies.
Enhancing Cluster Effects to Reduce Regional Labor-Supply Gaps: An Example in South Carolina
A series of regional focus groups and interviews reveal the practical economic development challenges that small and rural communities experience in an environment of globalization and industrial restructuring. The analysis reported here found that many economically distressed communities face immediate human capital and labor market concerns that may prevent the implementation of competitive economic development approaches. Unless these regions address these human capital constraints, they are at continued risk of falling further behind. They must begin with the development of programs and policies that build regional partnerships among local school districts, career centers, local businesses, and community colleges, and universities.
Using a Market Segmentation Approach to Better Target Agricultural Extension Programs—Aligning Learner Needs with Learning Programs
Agricultural Extension has traditionally been based on the assumption that farmers' have similar learning needs and styles, whatever the subject matter. In this article we argue that undertaking market segmentation can greatly enhance the value of the Extension program by better aligning participant needs with program objectives and delivery modes. We outline a case study from New Zealand where market segmentation was used to inform the design of an Extension program for sheep and beef farmers on feed planning. A series of four differentiated workshops were developed. Early evaluation indicates that this approach is well received by farmers.
When the Quick Fix Doesn't Work: Evaluating the Effect of Parent Education on Child Abuse
The article outlines an evaluation in which multiple attempts were made to negotiate a more powerful program design. Results of a parent education intervention are briefly reported. Lasting change in human behavior requires the application of intense program dosages across ecological systems. Despite these recommendations from behavior change literature, many programs seek quick fixes with low dosage, uni-level interventions. What role should scholars and program evaluators play in informing clients about the duration and intensity required for effective parent education interventions? Implications and questions are presented for others involved in creating powerful behavior change interventions to address complex social issues.
Worksite Wellness: Investing in Healthy Employees and Economies
Worksites are structured environments with social norms and policies. These "norms" positively or negatively influence health habits such as physical activity and food choices. This article describes a worksite wellness program conducted and evaluated by Extension. The program demonstrated significant changes in body weight, waist circumference, body mass index, amount of exercise, and stages of change for exercise and intake of fruits and vegetables. This article challenges Extension to partner with employers who have a growing interest in contributing to a healthy work force. Also included are suggestions and tools for conducting worksite wellness programs.
We Listen to Them: Assessing Natural Resource Perspectives and Priorities in a Tribal Community
We sought to begin a natural resource-based partnership with a Minnesota Tribe, but gaining clear insights into environmental perspectives can be difficult for outsiders, and methods typically used are often ineffective or inappropriate. We introduce the Extension community to a method for assessment of Tribal community context, perspectives, and priorities. We present the method in the context of an emerging collaboration between the University of Minnesota Extension and the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. Finally, we summarize key lessons that emerged, namely, that disconnect, identified at multiple scales, frames the community's natural resource perspectives and priorities.
Research in Brief
Community Education Programs Serving Couples in Stepfamilies: A Qualitative Study of Format, Content, and Service Delivery
This article examines current efforts to provide community education programs for couples in stepfamilies. The study used qualitative interviews to explore the range of approaches, formats, settings, costs, and content used by Extension/non-Extension educators in programs for stepfamily couples. Results indicate that despite the prevalence of stepfamily couples in our communities and their unique needs in relationship programs, a dearth of current offerings exist. Those that do are as likely led by a volunteer as a trained professional; however, key concepts taught are similar across programs. Implications for educators are offered.
Community Leaders' Knowledge and Perceptions About Obesity: Implications for Outreach Educators in Designing Interventions
The study reported here examined the knowledge and perceptions of community leaders on overweight and obesity in two racially different counties. Data were collected from 126 individuals, including clergy, physicians, grocery store managers, school administrators, nurses, nutritionists, and university faculty and staff. Statistically significant differences were observed when community leaders were grouped according to race. Additionally, over 90% of community leaders were knowledgeable about obesity. Leaders associated obesity with high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. This article provides insights that can be useful for planning and implementing programs on obesity prevention and reduction.
The Influence of Parenting Stress on Mealtime Behaviors of Low-Income African-American Mothers of Toddlers
Family stress theory provides a structure to obtain and analyze maternal perceptions of toddler feeding challenges within low-income African-American households. Focus groups, with a total of 20 mothers, were conducted in four counties in a Midwestern state in the United States. The following themes emerged from the data analysis: identification and appraisal of feeding challenges, child temperament, maternal psychological and physical states, and coping behaviors. Study conclusions provide suggestions related to child feeding that Extension educators should consider when offering culturally appropriate mealtime management interventions for African-American parents of young children.
Rural Tourism Development: A Case Study of the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail in Southern Illinois
The research reported here analyzed non-wine activities that wine tourists might engage in while visiting a wine trail. Data was obtained by online questionnaires from 104 tour visitors to the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail in southern Illinois. Results indicated wine tourists were older, with higher education and income than local visitors. Wine tourists found local dining, national parks, and fine dining to be important, whereas locals considered local dining, site seeing, and photography important. Results reported may assist the rural wine tourism industry to better understand activities to enhance the tourist experience while increasing the tourism dollars to rural communities.
Does User Age Differ in Perceptions of Online Learning for Certified and Licensed Pesticide Applicators?
The University of Florida offers continuing education units through an approved online system to meet recertification standards for applicators of pesticides to renew their licenses. Data comparing an older age group (50 years and older) to a younger group (18 to 49) revealed no age differences in perceptions of our online system for learning as compared to traditional "face-to-face" classes. Our survey showed older and younger applicators to be equally likely to use Web-based learning tools in the future.
Precision Farming Information Sources Used by Cotton Farmers and Implications for Extension
Cotton farmers in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North and South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia were asked where they obtained information about precision farming. Farmers use Extension as a source of precision farming information, but in combination with other sources, including media, crop consultants, trade shows, and other farmers. Farmers using Extension as a source of information tend to be younger, with more education and higher incomes, compared to producers not seeking information from Extension. Understanding the profiles of producers using Extension resources for precision farming information may help Extension design programs to improve information delivery to clients.
Dairy Modernization Works for Family Farms
Results are presented from a survey conducted in 2008 on small- to average-sized Wisconsin family dairy farms that had switched from milking cows in a stall barn to some type of parlor milking system. The survey was used to determine the producers' observations as to the major benefits to both themselves and the cows after modernizing their facilities. Producers were also asked to identify the educational resources they used, the most challenging aspect of the modernization process, grant and loan programs used, and impacts on labor.