Taylor Hanson, MFC Fall Program Evaluation Intern
Sociology Major at Hamline University
At Midwest Food Connection the ultimate goal is for students to retain as much knowledge as possible from our lessons with the hopes that they can apply this knowledge to their everyday life. My work as an intern this fall was dedicated to assessing the success of that goal through data collection. In the past, Midwest Food Connection has collected countless quotes and drawings from students in order to capture their qualitative feedback from the lessons. This semester my role as a Program Evaluation Intern was to conduct a statistical survey analysis of students’ progress over the course of a unit.
Before drafting the survey, I spent a bit of time in several elementary classrooms assisting with lessons and observing students’ proficiencies to inform the survey design. I found that using certain language and vocabulary was critical in helping young students understand exactly what was being asked of them. The MFC staff and I decided that one overarching concept from each lesson of the Fall 1: Locally Grown unit should be tested. The four lessons included themes of Eating Local, Making a Garden Salad, Herbs & Spices, and Wild Rice & Cultural Awareness.
For this study we chose to work with three classes of first graders from Marcy Open Elementary and two classes of fifth graders from Richard R. Green Central Park Elementary. The sample size included 72 students in total. The pre-test survey was administered approximately one week before the lessons started and after the four lessons were completed, I came back to each classroom to conclude with a post-test survey.
First and Fifth Grade Collective Survey Scores:
Figure 1 represents the average scores of all three first grade classes. Figure 2 represents the average scores of both fifth grade classes. The first bar in each graph represents the students’ average score on the pre-test survey and the second bar in each graph represents the average score on the post-test survey.
First Grade Individual Question Analysis: Cultural Connections Concept
This question assesses a concept of cultural and historical awareness. Figure 3 represents the percentage of students’ answers pertaining to the question above for the pre-test survey. Figure 4 represents the same for the post-test survey. There is a moderate increase in students’ understanding of the historical significance of wild rice to Minnesota from the pre-test survey to the post-test survey.
Fifth Grade Individual Question Analysis: Herb Concept
Students were asked, “ In what way(s) can an herb be used?”
This question assesses students’ understanding of the uses of an herb. Figure 5 represents the percentage of students that could successfully identify one or more uses in the pre-test survey. Figure 6 represents the same for the post-test survey with a substantial increase in the percentage of students who were able to successfully answer the question.
The statistics showed that there was an increase in students’ ability to answer each survey question correctly. The evidence from the survey suggests that students are grasping concepts discussed in class and are able to display their increased knowledge of newly introduced foods, sustainability, food systems, and cultural awareness.
As a student intern, my biggest takeaway from the program evaluation was an increased understanding of how to be mindful of a student’s needs in the classroom while conducting the survey. I became very aware that each child learns differently and I wanted to be able to capture their knowledge while also making them feel empowered to learn by celebrating their learning journeys.