The Outside World, In and Around Duluth

Early Childhood Nature Play

Hunting Frogs

In my Program Evaluation class this week, we had the first of our two final presentations. This was the bigger one, where we presented the findings of our research project to a meeting of the MN Children and Nature Connection (part of the Children and Nature Network). The smaller one, presenting an EPA grant request, is next week.

The research looked at reasons childcare providers didn’t spend more time bringing their preschool aged children outside into natural, wild areas for unstructured play.

Methodology in a Nutshell:

We sent out 400 surveys to childcare providers throughout the state, received 81 back, called a few non-responders to make sure their answers more or less tracked the respondent’s answers, and then we analyzed the data.

Apparently, when you are a student at UMD, you can use some statistical software that helps makes sense of survey data. Good to know, since my thesis is looking like it’ll include some sort of questionnaire (not that I’m thinking about methodology yet…). Nice that those tools are there. I haven’t looked, but I wonder if there’s pretty much just a single program that everyone uses, or if it’s like citation software, and everyone uses their own pet program.

Once we wrapped our heads around the big picture of all of our data, the class wrote a comprehensive summary report, created a presentation and a poster (which we never displayed, unfortunately), and went down to the Twin Cities to present our findings.

This was a formal presentation, so we all gussied ourselves up. This is toward the beginning of our presentation:

About half the class took turns presenting, for about an hour, then we broke out into small working groups for another hour. Each group had a different topic to banter around. We captured all of the possible solutions, wrote it all up and will be emailing it out to everyone.

That’s the quick and dirty version of it. And really, the whole process was quick. Julie drove us along at a pretty good clip, and I think it took us all a while to really understand exactly what we were doing. I think we were already doing the project before we really ‘got it.’ At least that was my experience. But what’s neat is that you can go from zero to sixty with a research project in very short order… especially when you know what you’re doing and have twenty helpers!

The nice thing about being involved in this project is that it’s really helped me to see what aspects of my own project might look like. Handy, how that works – school and all.


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