June 2020 // Volume 58 // Number 3
Presubmission Reviews and June JOE Highlights
In the “Presubmission Reviews” section of this Editor’s Page, I pass along and elaborate on scholarly publishing words of wisdom shared with me by a previous JOE editor. In “June JOE Highlights,” I call attention to articles that directly address or indirectly provide inspiration for actions Extension professionals should or can take amid the new normal of living in a time of pandemic. I also place emphasis on three articles that address issues of equity and inclusivity.
A Time Like No Other: 4-H Youth Development and COVID-19
In this thought leader commentary, we review the potential devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on young people, including trauma, impacts on mental health, socioemotional distress, and changes in academic learning. Stating that 4-H is uniquely positioned to mitigate these effects through intentional positive youth development efforts, we present a call to action for 4-H educators and Extension administrators as we move from initial reaction to recovery and beyond. We recommend four research-based strategies to ensure that youths not only survive, but thrive, in this time like no other.
Participate in the JOE Discussion Forum on “A Time Like No Other: 4-H Youth Development and COVID-19”
Importance of Best Guesses in Emergency Situations
During emergency situations, such as natural disasters or the current pandemic, there may not be immediate access to research-based information or information may be nonexistent or conflicting. In such scenarios, Extension personnel may be required to make best guesses based on “what is known so far.” Depending on the urgency of the situation, Extension personnel should draw on opinions and expertise from diverse networks of people and resources before making a best guess. When making a best guess, the Extension professional should follow up to determine whether any information disseminated and recommendations made were correct or not. In either case, the result should be made known.
Participate in the JOE Discussion Forum on “Importance of Best Guesses in Emergency Situations”
Ideas at Work
Know the Land, Save the Land: Apparel Design for Extension Education
We leveraged collaboration by a county Extension office, apparel design undergraduate students, and university faculty to develop an innovative educational product to capture the attention of new audiences for invasive plant education programming. Nationwide press highlighted the project—titled Know the Land, Save the Land—generating national interest and sales. We achieved our goal of using innovative educational materials to reach new audiences for Extension education. As well, the project is fiscally self-sustaining and continues to support experiential student learning opportunities for apparel design students through future product releases.
Publishing an Online Research Review: Engaging University and Community Authors in Communication About Research
Extension professionals need easy access to published research and the means to translate it in meaningful ways. They also aim to engage community partners in applying research findings. The Children's Mental Health eReview serves as an example of a process for engaged writing with community partners as well as a product that summarizes current research and its relevance. The eReview reaches a wide audience, promotes practice change among readers, and serves as a useful model for other areas of Extension work.
Multidisciplinary Program Approach to Building Food and Business Skills for Agricultural Entrepreneurs
Farmers involved in local food systems are seeking opportunities to expand operations and diversify their sources of income through value-added operations and access to new markets. To be successful, producers need further food safety training and business skills acquisition to mitigate potential risks. We outline and discuss a multidisciplinary program developed for Extension personnel to deliver to producers and value-added entrepreneurs participating in local and regional food systems. The program helps participants reduce risks by improving their business skills, marketing tools, market access, market channels, regulatory compliance, and food safety practices.
Virtual Plant Clinics Cultivate Collaborations and Transfer Knowledge in Extension
Plant clinics have been used as a tool to help Extension professionals diagnose crop production problems; however, limited resources have made it difficult to continue to offer in-person clinics. Using distance-learning technology, University of Maryland Extension initiated and offered to Extension professionals "virtual" plant clinics (VPCs) during the 2017 and 2018 growing seasons. Participants reported an increase in knowledge of field conditions across the state and felt that they were more likely to attend a VPC over an in-person clinic. Hosting VPCs is a way for Extension faculty to increase internal communication, share ideas throughout the growing season, and foster collaborations.
Hosting Flame Cap Biochar Kiln Workshops to Teach Hazardous Fuel Reduction
The combination of large volumes of woody fuel needing disposal after forestry activities and evolving regulatory restrictions makes traditional methods of pile burning increasingly difficult. Alternatively, using small kilns to pyrolyze these fuels on-site yields a potentially valuable product: biochar. In this article, we describe an educational program on the use of small kilns for fuel treatment and biochar production. Survey results from our series of demonstrations indicate that 69% of respondents added biochar to their soils and 100% of respondents increased their interest in biochar. Moreover, we reduced hazardous fuel in Utah by more than 20 semitruck loads by implementing this approach.
Integrating Emotional Intelligence Principles into Extension Programming
Emotional intelligence is a learned ability that can bridge emotions and decision making to help improve Extension program participant outcomes. Because decision making is not based on information and facts alone, emotional intelligence has the power to transform the way individuals think about, plan, and execute behavior changes as well as make informed decisions. We introduce and discuss the applicability of a five-step emotional intelligence framework for Extension programming as a means for integrating emotional intelligence into programs to enhance program participant decision making.
Tools of the Trade
Sharing Feedback, Sharing Screens: Videoconferencing as a Tool for Stakeholder-Driven Web Design
Videoconferencing is a low-cost, high-reward tool for engaging stakeholders in participatory design and usability testing for online Extension products. This article details how we used the videoconference program BlueJeans to facilitate the redesign of the Great Lakes Aquatic Nonindigenous Species Information System database and highlights the benefits of this technique along with the methods we used for stakeholder interviews in the project.
Evaluation Tool for Collecting Statewide Outcomes for Single-Session Programs
Evaluation is critical to demonstrating program value and impact and to better communicating outcomes to stakeholders. Purdue Extension Health and Human Sciences (HHS Extension) created an evaluation tool based on the need to collect statewide metrics on a standardized set of questions addressing the topics of food, family, money, and health. This evaluation tool, Survey Builder, allows Extension educators to customize evaluations for single-session programs using a streamlined online approach. Data from Survey Builder allow HHS Extension to demonstrate the collective outcomes of statewide programming efforts. Survey Builder was developed to be used by other organizations as well.
Developmental Disabilities Training Series
Effectively engaging individuals with developmental disabilities is essential to Extension's diversity and inclusion mandate. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that over 6 million individuals have developmental disabilities. We in Extension have the potential to include a proportionate number of individuals with developmental disabilities in our programs wherever we serve. The Developmental Disabilities Training Series, an online or in-person professional development series, prepares Extension personnel and volunteers with the knowledge, skills, and confidence needed to design and implement community-based programs for this clientele. The series includes five courses, fact sheets, and resource materials.
Approach to Establishing an Infrastructure for Delivering Third-Party-Reimbursable Community-Based Health Education
Entities that seek to provide quality community-based health education need sustainable funding to maintain their efforts. With dwindling funding sources, it has become important to have diverse financial support for program stability. A promising new practice for expanding funding involves partnering with third-party payers. Michigan State University Extension created a multistep approach to prepare organizations to receive third-party payments. This approach includes (a) assessing readiness, need, and capacity; (b) conducting organizational preparation; (c) conducting staff preparation; and (d) formalizing partnerships. The result is the creation of an infrastructure that allows for partnering with varied funding sources for sustainable community-based health education programming.
Best Practices for Engaging Communities of Color in Opioid Prevention Programs
The United States has an opioid epidemic that requires efforts to help youths and families navigate complex challenges. Extension professionals are being called on to develop programs that equitably and effectively engage and serve audiences across racial and ethnic differences. To accomplish this, Extension professionals must understand the systemic and historic inequities that have shaped prevention and treatment initiatives within communities of color. Establishing culturally responsive practices is essential for building successful prevention programs. This article presents an overview of historical occurrences, challenges faced by communities of color, and recommendations for best practices.
Model Multilayered Website for Varied Audiences: Dairy Sustainability "Virtual Farm"
A "virtual farm" website with science-based information about dairy sustainability topics was created for a variety of audiences. A key structure of the website is layering of information. At the most frequently used entry level, a site visitor explores by looking and learning. As interest evolves, the visitor finds links to technical levels, and those with a deep interest in a topic will find peer-reviewed documents at the research resource level. Process-based model scenarios include climate change mitigation practices targeted at dairies. Anecdotally, users have appreciated the professional looking access to technical information and depiction of modern dairy farming practices. Extension educators can use the site to inform themselves, for referral of clients, and as a model.
Importance of Adding Objective Data to Stakeholder Data in Needs Assessments
When completing a needs assessment, Extension professionals should include both objective county data and stakeholder input data. Specifically, Extension professionals should identify potential areas of need, source available objective data, source data from relevant county stakeholders, and analyze similarities and differences in objective and stakeholder data. Needs assessments should be conducted in this manner to confirm the needs of a county; address risk of data skewed by subjective stakeholder opinion, particularly in small counties; and identify areas of greatest need. This method has been shown to be effective through implementation in a target rural county.
Preparing to Cocreate: Using Learning Circles to Ready Extension Professionals for Meaningful Stakeholder Engagement
Extension professionals are being asked to address complex public issues. Doing so requires cocreative approaches that engage, in a significant way, the people affected by these issues. Successful engagement, however, requires specific skills and a cocreative mind-set. Extension professionals in two states participated in learning circles to improve their engagement skills. Using a survey and interviews, we studied the impact of the learning circle experience on participants. We found that learning circles helped participants practice colearning, build relationships, and change their mind-sets in ways that could move their work toward more cocreative efforts.
Overview of a Statewide Extension Strategic Planning Process and Unintended Outcomes
In 2010, University of Tennessee Extension conducted a strategic planning effort focused on the subsequent 10 years. The process involved approximately 3,000 Tennesseans in online surveys, area meetings, opinion polling, and focus group sessions. This article describes the process, tools, and outcomes—which included a comprehensive strategic plan. Yet the strategic planning process itself produced unintended outcomes, specifically professional development opportunities, greater awareness of Extension among state government stakeholders, and continuity in the pursuit of strategic goals despite administrative change. The major implication for Cooperative Extension organizations is that attention to the potential of these unintended outcomes can enhance strategic planning.
Invasive Species Terminology: Standardizing for Stakeholder Education
The excessive number of terms associated with invasive species, and their often incorrect usage, hinders stakeholder education about the threats of invasive species. Here we introduce seven terms (native, nonnative, introduced, established, invasive, nuisance, and range change) that are applicable across invasive taxa, understandable, typically interpreted correctly, and useful for describing most situations regarding invasive species. We also list six terms to avoid (native invasive, invasive exotic, invasive weed, alien, foreign, and nonindigenous) that create confusion via their misuse and misinterpretation. The terms we propose will increase understanding, thereby promoting behavior changes aimed at limiting the negative impacts of invasive species.
Examining the Potential Role of Descriptive Norms in Landscape Water Conservation Programs
The study reported here was conducted to inform potential social norms approaches to water conservation programs. Using a theoretically informed survey instrument, we examined Floridians' perceived descriptive norms of close-peer, neighborhood, state, and national groups pertaining to water conservation. Respondents perceived that people conserved less as groups became more distant and perceived that conservation among close peers was most strongly related to their own conservation practices. When we considered perceptions of the four groups together, we found that only perceptions of close peers' conservation efforts significantly predicted respondents' conservation behaviors. Our findings revealed opportunities to highlight descriptive norms as an Extension strategy, especially among clientele's close peers.
Forest Health Diagnostics Facebook Page: Impact and Natural Resources Programming Implications
The Southern Forest and Tree Health Diagnostics Facebook page, managed by Extension and forestry professionals in the southeastern United States, is designed to deliver forest and tree heath information to the public via a web-based, crowdsourced diagnostic service. We conducted an online survey to quantify the page's impact by identifying audience demographics, engagement levels, and perceptions of the page's value. Results indicated that stakeholders consider the Southern Forest and Tree Health Diagnostics page to be an effective diagnostics service and a valuable educational tool. This model could be used in other natural resources program areas to increase the reach of Extension professionals.
Integrated Pest Management Summit Reveals Barriers, Needs, and Goals for Agricultural Extension
Integrated pest management (IPM) continues to be an area of great importance for agricultural Extension. However, there are barriers to implementation. To advance understanding of current status, barriers, and needs in IPM Extension, we organized a 1-day IPM summit for Oregon State University agricultural Extension faculty. Over 50 faculty attended from various departments and programs. We report on the process and highlight the top barriers, needs, and goals revealed. We hope to stimulate similar meetings among other agricultural Extension professionals and enhance Extension professionals' collective understanding of barriers to IPM to reveal pathways for progress.
Research in Brief
Impacts of Changes to County Educator Position Descriptions on Gender and Educational Diversity
For the purposes of more accurately reflecting job duties and increasing diversity, Ohio county agriculture and natural resources educator position descriptions were changed in 2013 to include natural resources as an educational qualification. We examined applicant and hiring data from 3 years before and 3 years after the position description change. Results indicate that the numbers of women applicants and applicants with natural resources degrees increased following the position description change. However, although the percentage of hires with natural resources backgrounds increased, the percentage of female hires decreased sharply. Factors influencing the hiring of county agriculture and natural resources educators need to be examined.
Sense of Belonging as Perceived by Youths Who Continue Participation in 4-H
Sense of belonging is an essential element of a high-quality 4-H program. However, little research exists quantifying sense of belonging among 4-H club members. We measured perceived sense of belonging among Florida 4-H members in middle and high school as well as seven factors that influenced continued participation in 4-H. Parental involvement, 4-H events, and interactions with friends were factors important to participants' continued enrollment. Interaction with a caring adult was the factor most strongly positively correlated with perceived sense of belonging, suggesting the importance to retention of providing a framework that allows a new 4-H member to develop a positive relationship with a caring adult in a safe and inclusive environment.
Lesson Plan Helps Volunteers Improve Learning Among 4-H Youths in Animal Projects
Continued development and delivery of animal science programs for 4-H youths is a critical need in all livestock production regions. The large number of 4-H youth programs, their rural locations, and the small number of 4-H Extension professionals make delivery of new curricula challenging. In response, we developed animal science lessons for volunteer leaders. We evaluated the effectiveness of a quality assurance lesson delivered by untrained volunteers on learning among 4-H youths in 32 clubs across Idaho. Survey results indicate improved student learning and provide preliminary evidence that this delivery model can be effective for 4-H participants.
Reducing Obesity in Rural Alabama: From Focus Groups to Community Coalitions
With an adult obesity rate of 35.6%, Alabama is the second most obese state in the United States. Alabama Extension and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) joined in the first collaboration between the CDC and land-grant institutions to prevent further incidence and reduce the prevalence of obesity. The objective of our study was to determine perceived barriers and assets related to nutrition education, food retail, and physical activity in 14 rural counties in Alabama where adult obesity rates are greater than 40%. Extension formed community coalitions in the counties to help identify community-specific needs and strategies related to obesity prevention and reduction.
Development and Evaluation of a Family-Based Cooking and Nutrition Education Program
Low-income families experience many barriers to purchasing and preparing healthful foods. To help address some of these barriers, a team created a family-based cooking class, Healthy All Together, in which participants learn strategies for how to stretch their food dollars and feed their families healthful meals. In this article, we describe the development of Healthy All Together, report program impacts, and summarize program feedback from participants and instructors. Of particular importance is the idea that engaging children in cooking through a family-based class has the potential to help families consider how to use strategies to mitigate barriers to healthful cooking.
Postsecondary Students' Perceptions of Water Issues and Water-Related Educational Interests
We conducted a nonexperimental, descriptive study to better understand Oklahoma State University students' perceptions of water issues and relevant learning preferences using a 56-item survey instrument we based on the 2008 Water Issues in Oklahoma survey. In total, 103 agriculture students participated in our survey. Clean drinking water was their top concern, but few understood potential risks to water supplies. Additionally, participants expressed only modest interest in learning more about water issues. They indicated that they preferred learning via digital media and traditional fact sheets and expressed little interest in learning via apps, in-person events, and newspaper articles. Our results have implications for delivering water education programs to younger college-educated adults.