Designing an Evaluation System for the Walking Mountains Science Center Community Programs

by Nicole Muench

Institution: University of Michigan
Year: 2016
Keywords: evaluation; environmental education; early childhood
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2077624
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/2027.42/117632


There are a growing number of environmental education programs for pre-school aged children across the country. This project’s goal was to develop and pilot test an evaluation system for the Walking Mountains Science Center (WMSC) to assess its early childhood programs’ outcomes and inform program improvements. Two questionnaires were created and pilot tested as part of the development of the evaluation system (total N=189). One questionnaire was administered immediately following each program (post program; Earth Keepers n=82, Nature Tykes n=8, Scenic Storytime n=2) and one was emailed to families one month later (program retention; Earth Keepers n=6, Nature Tykes n=1, Scenic Storytime n=0). Families within the Earth Keepers program were emailed the program retention questionnaire a second time in an attempt to gather more responses for analysis (n=6, total program retention n=12). Favorable post program questionnaire responses suggests families who participated in the three programs intended to participate again, planned to recommend the program to others, and suggested that children enjoyed and engaged with the program’s topics, vocabulary, and activities. Post program and program retention responses regarding children’s experience and outcomes provide evidence to suggest that WMSC is meeting some of its desired children outcome goals, with from for improvement (mean scores were mostly about 4, with 1=strongly disagree to 5=strongly agree). In some contrast, quantitative self-reports and qualitative comparisons of the Earth Keeper families’ responses immediately after and one to six months after the program suggest that families’ high stewardship intentions did not translate into behaviors. Because WMSC is interested in behavioral changes as a result of their programs, they will need to investigate how to enhance participation in retention questionnaires to be able to answer related questions. Recommendations were made to improve the evaluation system, including changing the language on open-ended questions to prompt legible responses, conducting a needs assessment for underrepresented audiences, and highlighting program alignment with Colorado State Standards for Preschool and NAAEE Early Childhood Environmental Education Guidelines. In addition to pilot testing post program and program retention questionnaires, this practicum included the development of an evaluation plan for WMSC to allow staff to collect and analyze program evaluation data on an on-going basis. Advisors/Committee Members: Zint, Michaela (advisor), Luera, Gail (committee member).