April 2020 // Volume 58 // Number 2
Unprecedented Times and April JOE Highlights
As we deal with multiple impacts of a historic pandemic, Extension professionals must refocus some of their efforts and find ways to carry on with others. I address this circumstance in both sections of this Editor’s Page: “Unprecedented Times” and “April JOE Highlights.”
Extension Needs Outreach Innovation Free from the Harms of Social Media
Despite the outreach-building benefits of social media for Extension, it is time for Extension professionals to find new innovative ways to reach out that do not involve social media. An increasing body of research has demonstrated the harms social media use imparts on the health and well-being of those in our communities. Our future use of social media as a primary method of outreach may perpetuate these harms, requiring our best efforts to develop new methods of outreach that do not negatively affect those we serve.
Participate in the JOE Discussion Forum on “Extension Needs Outreach Innovation Free from the Harms of Social Media”
Ideas at Work
Scaling Community Health Coalitions: The Well Connected Communities Pilot Initiative
We outline the process and development of the Well Connected Communities health initiative as undertaken in three Utah communities. This transformative community-focused alternative to addressing public health issues through Extension situates local communities as the origin for health decision making. The initiative recognizes the need for varied community statuses (i.e., planner, implementer, and innovator) based on varying levels of readiness and diversity of populations. We concluded that the Utah Well Connected Communities initiative aligns well with the 2014 Extension Committee on Organization and Policy National Framework for Health and Wellness. Replication requirements and implications for other Extension programs are presented.
Cultural and Contextual Adaptation of a Childhood Obesity Preventive Intervention Program
This article describes the adaptation of a parent-focused evidence-based childhood obesity intervention program for implementation by county-based Extension educators in coordination with school district personnel in rural Pennsylvania. The Lifestyle Positive Parenting Program was designed and evaluated in Australia in clinical settings. Several minor and more serious adaptations, such as featured recipes and content of follow-up telephone calls, were made so that the program would be more appropriate for and appealing to target families. Conceptual issues regarding the adaptation of evidence-based programs are reviewed.
Girls in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math: From Camps to Careers
Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers are among the fastest growing and highest paying, yet women are largely underrepresented in these fields, and many girls lack access to STEM opportunities in school. Oregon State University's Open Campus partners with the American Association of University Women to bring an experiential STEM camp, Tech Trek, to middle school girls in rural Oregon with the ultimate goal of increasing the number of women in STEM. Tech Trek serves as a model for intentionally engaging youths to expand access to career opportunities that can be adapted for other Extension programming.
Successful Method for Converting an Existing Woodland Stewardship Program to an Online Program
In 2016, we debuted an online version of a long-running woodland stewardship Extension program to reach property owners unable to attend traditional workshops. In the first 2 years, 119 participants enrolled. They owned or managed 1,796 ac, and many were in an atypical age demographic. In a follow-up survey of 67 participants, 96% of respondents indicated having undertaken one or more of the targeted land care practices, and two thirds indicated having converted some lawn to natural area. Additionally, participant feedback led to several program improvements. The online course is an effective means for imparting an important stewardship ethic. Our methods and lessons learned may guide other Extension staff wishing to convert existing programming to online offerings.
Day to Day Eats: Using an Educational Blog to Extend Nutrition Education
An educational blog was created for the purposes of extending learning beyond the reach of organized classes and supplementing the core themes of the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program. Focus group members reacted to the format, content, visual appeal, and writing style of the blog and addressed their likelihood of reading the blog because of these elements. Their overall acceptance of the blog as a relevant source of nutrition information confirms the usefulness of this mode of social media for expanding the sharing of information beyond in-person interactions.
Prelude to Estate Planning: Helping Older Adults Simplify Their Lives Before Meeting with Professionals
Baby boomers are retiring earlier and living longer than any previous generation. With this longevity comes a resistance to begin planning for final decision wishes. Estate planning programs are widely available, but few focus on the preparation needed prior to the actual estate planning meetings. The Simplify Your Life workshop offers a prelude to estate planning by educating participants on how to simplify their possessions and financial paperwork as well as how to initiate family conversations concerning final wishes. After attending, participants are able to consolidate important personal property and paperwork and hold positive and productive final wish conversations.
Tools of the Trade
Tools for Quickly Adapting During Pandemics, Disasters, and Other Unique Events
Amid the current COVID-19 pandemic, Cooperative Extension personnel across the nation are quickly adapting to daily changes while continuing to respond to the needs of clients. This article provides examples of how we in North Carolina State Extension Forestry have responded to the challenges we have faced thus far. The solutions and tools described can be used in the current situation and for future pandemics, disasters, and other unique events that require "alternative" arrangements. The needs of landowners, farmers, youths, and the public at large will not diminish during this unprecedented time; therefore, we should continue to innovate to ensure that our impact is not diminished.
Publishing Extension Evaluations in Academic Research Journals: Some Recommendations
Extension evaluation studies often can provide the basis for valuable disciplinary contributions. This article presents recommendations for developing academic journal manuscripts from Extension evaluations. A journal article will be focused on research questions that may be distinctly different from the evaluation questions that drove the original study. Research questions should be identified that reflect current issues and debates within the discipline, rather than relate only to a perfunctory report of the evaluation's outcomes. Other recommendations involve selecting a target journal, optimizing methodological rigor in the analysis, and generating multiple manuscripts from the same evaluation study. The article includes illustrations from my evaluation work.
Application of a Modified Brainstorming Technique
Our modified brainstorming technique is an assessment tool Extension professionals can use to generate new ideas. The modified brainstorming technique capitalizes on creativity at the individual level and helps maximize the contribution of the whole group. The technique leads to generation of useful ideas in a mutually supportive setting for a minimal time investment. This tool is effective for relatively small groups within Extension and may be applicable to other outreach and nonprofit organizations.
The Stockman's Scorecard: Validity and Reliability as an Instrument for Measuring Stockmanship
The quality of beef cattle stockmanship typically is evaluated through quantitative and qualitative measurements of animal behavior. The Stockman's Scorecard is an observation instrument that has been developed to directly measure the actions of beef cattle stockmen. This article documents a pilot project for determining the content validity, internal consistency, and intrarater reliability of the scorecard as an evaluation instrument. Our results show that the scorecard is a valid and reliable instrument for measuring the actions of stockmen. The instrument can be a valuable tool for Extension educators in evaluating their stockmanship programming impacts.
Using Virtual Reality Equipment to Enhance Learning in Extension Youth Programming
This article provides information on how to use virtual reality equipment to increase participant engagement as well as suggestions for incorporating virtual reality activities into Extension youth programming. These are lessons learned through the use of virtual reality by Extension faculty. Virtual reality equipment can increase participant engagement and improve learning.
Introducing the Human Development-EcoLogic Model: A Practical Approach for Outreach and Extension Education Programs
To reach the goals of outreach and Extension programs, a program planning model is essential. A new model is presented to ensure program success; it is the human development-ecoLogic model (HD-ELM). The HD-ELM components are as follows: HD—human development characteristics and implications for target audience; E—modified ecological systems theory, or the surrounding systems that influence program participants; and LM—revised logic model (objectives, inputs, outputs, outcomes, and program assessment). Users of the HD-ELM can account for missing gaps that prevent programs from being successful by addressing the target audience's developmental characteristics and the surrounding systems in which programs exist.
Investing in Extension's Workforce: Assessing and Developing Critical Competencies of New Agents
This article describes Tennessee Extension's creation and implementation of a competency assessment and development program for new Extension agents. The program is based on results of a Delphi study that identified critical soft skill competencies new Extension agents need to be successful in building partnerships and delivering Extension programming in their communities. The program consists of online assessments, interactive feedback with regional program leaders, and identification of targeted online professional development courses. Expected results include targeted professional development, increased competency of agents, greater job satisfaction, increased retention, and increased public value for Extension.
Informing Decision Making in Extension Through Importance-Performance Analysis and the Repositioning Framework
In an era of financial constraint following the Great Recession, many Extension entities have been forced to make difficult decisions; some have adopted alternative funding strategies whereas others have accepted reductions in service delivery and staffing levels. In this article we describe how importance-performance analysis and the repositioning framework may be combined to help inform resource-related decision making in Extension. To do so, we provide an example drawn from an evaluation of local recreation services. The approach and recommendations we detail can be valuable resources for Extension professionals faced with difficult decisions regarding limited resources.
The Art and Science of Networking Extension
As Extension professionals are increasingly tasked with moving beyond program delivery into the murky realm of systems change, networks represent an essential organizing framework for this transition. In this article, we examine the ways in which networks are becoming a modern mode for social change. By providing examples from our work with food networks, we demonstrate how these collaborative approaches can produce a greater impact for Extension and the communities we serve. Lastly, we discuss the critical characteristics of successful networks and the role Extension can play in their optimization.
Increasing Participation of Women in Agriculture Through Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Outreach Methods
With a focus on the Commonwealth of Virginia, we reviewed literature and data associated with the prevalence and persistence of women's engagement in agriculture from youth-focused programs through to college and employment in order to learn which models of outreach may best attract women to and retain women in agricultural careers. We found that girls in Virginia have strong participation in early agriculture-related activities but that women constitute the minority of primary farm owners. Our systematic literature review shows that using science, technology, engineering, and math models of outreach and reframing agriculture as a career that builds communities and cares for the planet can engage more women in agriculture.
Gray for a Day: Exploring the Impact of a Sensory Aging Experience
Gray for a Day is an interactive educational curriculum that centers on use of an empathic model to improve knowledge, skills, and attitudes related to sensory and functional aging, empathy toward older adults, and one's own health behaviors. The program has been disseminated by Extension educators with varied audiences and evaluated with 2,440 respondents. Participants reported positive changes in knowledge, skills, attitudes, and intended behaviors. Cooperative Extension and community-based partners are uniquely positioned to use the curriculum to provide sensory experiences that can improve understanding of and empathy toward older adults.
4-H International Visitor Exchange Programming Barriers, Challenges, and Alternatives
The purpose of the Delphi study described in this article was to determine barriers, challenges, and alternatives related to planning and implementing 4-H international visitor exchange programs. The Delphi panel comprised 21 Extension agents selected from two southeastern states on the basis of their experience and/or interest in international visitor exchange programming. The Delphi panel identified seven barriers and 16 challenges related to planning and implementing 4-H international visitor exchange programs and 25 alternatives useful for overcoming those barriers and challenges. The study led to practical recommendations for educating agents for the task, recruiting and training host families, and preparing outbound youths.
Research in Brief
Partnering with Faith-Based Organizations to Promote Positive Parenting: Example and Lessons Learned
We evaluated an early literacy initiative implemented in partnership with faith-based organizations. Heads of the initiative train church leaders to host monthly literacy events during which those leaders educate parents about child development and model dialogic reading behaviors while caregivers and their children follow along. A survey and focus group sessions with caregivers and church leaders indicated high satisfaction with the initiative, a reported increase in literacy-promoting practices among caregivers, and perceived gains in children's literacy skills attributed to participation in the literacy events. Extension educators can use or adapt elements of the initiative to promote positive parenting practices and early literacy.
Parent-Focused Childhood Obesity Intervention Improves Family Functioning and Children's Well-Being
An Extension-implemented parent-focused childhood obesity intervention designed to improve family functioning around healthful eating and exercise was evaluated. Thirty-six parents and their children, aged 5–13, were randomized to a 12-week intervention condition or control condition. Intervention parents, compared to control group parents, felt more confident in promoting children's healthful eating and exercise, worried less about their children's weight, and engaged in fewer counterproductive parenting behaviors. The children of these parents, as compared to children of control group parents, lost weight and displayed better social-emotional functioning. These results highlight Extension's important role in disseminating evidence-based childhood obesity interventions.
Implementation of Drone System in Survey for Tomato Chlorotic Spot Virus
As a cutting-edge technology, drone systems have shown great potential in agriculture. This article elucidates the implementation of a drone with a multispectral sensing system in a field survey for tomato chlorotic spot virus in south Florida. The findings demonstrate that drone technology can provide growers with precise and timely information about disease incidence and distribution in a labor-saving manner for decision making in crop management to mitigate yield loss. We provide recommendations for Extension professionals regarding educating producers on applying the technology to manage their crops efficiently.
Description and Educational Impact of Pennsylvania's Manure Hauler and Broker Certification Program
We describe Pennsylvania's Commercial Manure Hauler and Broker Certification Program and discuss results of an industry survey. Survey knowledge questions were centered on state-mandated program competencies designed to minimize environmental losses of manure nutrients. Survey results demonstrated that participation in state-directed, Extension-led educational programming resulted in greater knowledge for those required to complete more rigorous certification education and for those exposed to more continuing education. Educational impact is expected to be far-reaching as survey respondents worked on an average of 38.5 farms annually. Extension's role is critical in this certification program that endeavors to improve water quality.
Tipping the Balance on Winter Deicing Impacts: Education Is the Key
Winter deicing results in substantial export of road salts to fresh waters and causes numerous ecological problems. Extension faculty and other educators at the University of Connecticut implemented New Hampshire's Green SnowPro program, a voluntary training program for salt applicators. University of Connecticut facilities staff applied 3,479 fewer metric tons of salt to campus in the 2 years after the educational training, equating to a cost savings of $459,251. Substantial environmental and economic benefits can be realized in northern climates if Extension and other educators rally behind this program.
Bridging the Gender Gap in Forest Stewardship: Facilitating Programs for Women Landowners
Nationwide, women woodland owners are increasingly taking on the primary decision-making role for their land. In Wisconsin and beyond, most existing landowner outreach efforts target mixed-gender audiences. We explored how facilitation techniques can be incorporated into a women-centric workshop to increase women landowners' confidence, knowledge, and readiness to take action in forest stewardship. We highlight three core techniques Extension workshop developers can use to promote landowner learning and engagement: creating space for participant-driven open dialogue, generating opportunities for peer-to-peer learning, and enabling participants to receive personalized advice from professionals about their land.
Lesson Worksheets: A Tool for Developing Youth Weather and Climate Science Comprehension
At an Extension youth agricultural science center, our team developed and pilot tested a five-lesson weather and climate science curriculum for middle school–aged youths. As part of the endeavor, we conducted an item analysis of the five worksheets used across the lessons and determined relationships between worksheet scores and pretest/posttest science comprehension improvement scores. Results from 88 primarily Hispanic eighth graders indicated that worksheet performance was related to overall science comprehension, science knowledge, and weather and climate resiliency in agriculture and natural resources lesson improvement scores. Results support the use of formative scaffolding tools such as worksheets in Extension youth programming to improve youth science comprehension.
Evaluation of Juntos 4-H: A Wraparound Program Helping Latinx High Schoolers Succeed
Preprogram and postprogram surveys of 241 Latinx 4-H youths from five counties in North Carolina provided a snapshot of their experiences in the Juntos 4-H program. The study findings demonstrate that Juntos 4-H has positive impacts on academics, college readiness, parent engagement, and community engagement. Suggestions are made to help Extension professionals elsewhere develop effective programs for Latinx youths.
Extension Military Parent–Teen Camp Experiences: Family Resilience Building in Action
The purpose of the study addressed in this article was to gather information from military service members and their teenage children attending Extension camping programs together. We used a pretest and a posttest to examine resilience of both groups and compared other postprogram youth outcome measures to a normative sample. We found statistically significant increases in resilience scores for both service member participants and teenage participants as well as elevated youth outcomes in the areas of problem solving and connecting with others. Our results constitute useful information on the value of Extension outdoor and recreational programming for family systems.
Outcome Evaluation of the Super Star Chef Summer Youth Nutrition Education Program
Super Star Chef is an experiential summer youth nutrition education and cooking program designed to enhance participants' nutrition knowledge, food preparation skills, cooking self-efficacy, and intention to eat more fruits and vegetables. In a program evaluation comprising a single-sample pretest–posttest design, participants' pretest and posttest scores on variables of interest were compared. Gender and grade level differences in outcomes also were examined via analysis of variance tests. Results showed statistically significant preprogram-to-postprogram gains in participants' nutrition knowledge, food preparation skills, and cooking self-efficacy and a grade level difference in food preparation skill outcomes. Study limitations and implications for further research are discussed.
Gathering Perceptions to Strengthen Program Planning: A Citizen Science Project Highlighting Deer Impacts on Vegetation
White-tailed deer can significantly influence the composition and health of forests. University of Minnesota Extension implemented a citizen science project to help monitor the impact of deer populations on forests. Prior to design of the program, we administered a survey to potential volunteers to understand their perceptions of and knowledge about deer and their willingness to participate in our citizen science project. The survey responses helped us make informed decisions when developing our program, including decisions regarding not having a negative deer message, teaching more information about the impact of deer on vegetation, and providing both in-person and web-based resources for volunteers.