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Highlights from our Comprehensive Evaluation of the "Finding Home" Program

HIGHLIGHTS from:

A Comprehensive Evaluation of the “Finding Home” Program

Year Four



July 5, 2013

 

INTRODUCTION

In the seasons from January until June 2013, Coyote Trails School of Nature, an independent non-profit based in Southern Oregon, Oregon University Extension, Bear Creek Watershed Education Partners, and Bear Creek Watershed Council collaborated on a multi-season program to bring educational outdoor education to four different Title I schools (50% or more students from low-income families) in the Medford-Phoenix (Oregon) area.  This “Finding Home” program was conducted over an extended period to expose students to their local natural landscapes during different seasons.  Coyote Trails provided hands-on, inquiry-based experiences with early human technologies, awareness skills, and wildlife tracking as a way to connect students to the natural world and the cycles and interactions within it, as well as increase their appreciation for it.  Our time with students allowed them to study different aspects of early human life and connect it to their own, focusing on how human needs relate to the needs of a natural area.

Previous evaluations of the Finding Home program were useful in guiding Coyote Trails instructors in setting goals, determining objectives, and choosing methods for measuring the effectiveness of the program.  This year’s program design included administering similar assessments and interviews; however it focused on measuring students’ knowledge of early human uses of natural materials and their understanding of basic ecology in a forested area and riparian zone.

 

Program Description

The Finding Home program was designed to provide fourth and fifth grade students with an opportunity to have multiple and regular experiences working with hands-on skills, nature-based art projects, and awareness skills.  



Program Objectives

The overarching objective of evaluating the Finding Home program was to assess if providing students with multiple contacts with an outdoor area increased their knowledge and understanding of the natural world, its resources, and a human’s place in it, while providing opportunities for students to ask questions and find the answers through their own experiences. The program also intended to assist teachers in aligning outdoor experiences with classroom curriculum and federal and state standards.

 

The student objectives included the following:  

1) Students will increase their understanding of natural systems and the human’s role in it.  

2) Students will increase their appreciation for the natural world.  

 

A project‐specific objective for students was:  

3) Students will have opportunities to share created work with the larger community.  

 

The objective for the eight teachers whose classes were selected for the project was as follows:

Teachers will increase their ability to align and integrate effective experiential, outdoor-focused, place‐based, and inquiry‐based learning into the curriculum.  


Expected Outcomes

Based upon the program objectives, expected outcomes were determined. The expected student outcomes were as follows:  

1) 90% of the 8 classes of 4th/5th grade students will take part in all 5 field experiences, 4  classroom visits, and contribute one of each student’s art products to the community event.  

2) Student knowledge about the natural system will increase significantly (at the .05 level) from pre- to post-survey.   

3) 80% of interviewed students will demonstrate increased knowledge of the natural systems.  

4) Student appreciation of the natural systems will increase significantly (at the .05 level) from pre- to post-surveys.   

5) 85% of interviewed students will demonstrate increased appreciation for the natural world.  


The expected teacher outcomes were as follows:  

1) 90% of teachers will report increased comfort with including experiential, outdoor-focused, place‐based, and inquiry‐based learning in their curriculum.  

2) 90% of teachers will report increased likelihood to integrate such learning into their future teaching.

3) 90% of teachers will report increased knowledge and skills in such learning approaches.  


RESULTS


 

 

 

 


  

 

   

 



DISCUSSION


By assessing results from the multiple evaluation tools employed, it was possible to determine the overall effectiveness of the Finding Home program and compare results to our original objectives.


Objective 1

Ninety percent of the eight classes of 4th/5th grade students will take part in all five field experience, four classroom visits, and contribute one of each student’s art products to the community event.  


Result 1

In Table 5 above, it can be seen that student attendance never reached below 98.15% for an individual activity; therefore, at least 90% of the eight classes of students took part in all five field experiments, four classroom visits, and contributed to the community event.


Objective 2

Student knowledge about the natural system will increase significantly (at the .05 level) from pre- to post-surveys.   


Result 2

As depicted in Table 3, the t-values calculated (ranging from 15.93 to 71.72) all exceeded the 1.65 minimum for 95% (at the .05 level) certainty; proof that student knowledge about the natural system increased significantly from pre- to post-surveys.


Objective 3

80% of interviewed students will demonstrate increased knowledge of the natural systems.


Result 3  

Table 6 shows the results by question of the knowledge pre- and post-surveys given to a small sample of the students.  In this sample population, it can be seen that, for example, student 1 had a pre-survey total (summation of answers given) totaling 4 points.  On the post-test this student totaled 20 points, and because a larger value given in the answers demonstrates an increased knowledge of the natural systems, this table shows that for students 1 through 10, all demonstrated increased knowledge of the natural systems.  This same trend was seen throughout, and all 270 students (100%) demonstrated increased knowledge, surpassing the minimum 80%.


Objective 4

Student appreciation of the natural system will increase significantly (at the .05 level) from pre- to post-surveys.   


Result 4

As depicted in Table 1, the t-values calculated (ranging from 17.89 to 35.30) all exceeded the 1.65 minimum for 95% (at the .05 level) certainty; proof that student appreciation about the natural system increased significantly from pre- to post-surveys.  


Objective 5

85% of interviewed students will demonstrate increased appreciation of the natural world.


Result 5

Table 7, below, shows the results for a sample of 10 selected students.  A higher score on the post-test for questions 1, 2, and 3 showed an increase in appreciation, while a higher score on the pre-test for questions  4, 5, and 6 showed an increase in appreciation of the natural world.  The improve column holds a “1” if for that student, the overall score for increased appreciation surpasses the overall score for decrease in appreciation.  For these 10 students, all showed an increase in appreciation of the natural world, and this trend follows for all 270 students (100%) in the survey, surpassing the minimum of 85% needed.




Teacher Outcomes

Objective 1

90% of teachers will report increased comfort with including experiential, outdoor focused, place‐based, and inquiry‐based learning in their curriculum.  

Result 1

100% of participating teachers reported increased comfort with including outdoor education as a part of their regular instruction plans throughout a unit or academic year.


Objective 2

90% of teachers will report increased likelihood to integrate such learning into their future teaching.

Result 2

Seven out of eight teachers reported increased likelihood to integrate similar instruction into their regular academic year.  While this is only 88%, the teacher who did not give this response also did not report the contrary.


Objective 3

90% of teachers will report increased knowledge and skills in such learning approaches.  

Result 3

100% of participating teachers reported increased knowledge of outdoor instruction, but it was suggested that teachers could benefit from additional resources to increase their knowledge.


 

CONCLUSION

The Finding Home program exceeded expected outcomes for the participating 4th and 5th grade students from four Title I schools in Southern Oregon.