Lessons Learned at Spring Brook Farm: An Evaluation of the Farms For City Kids Program
The Farms for City Kids Program
Farms for City Kids is a hands-on experiential educational program for urban students that focuses on imparting life skills and practical learning as students live and work together on an operating dairy farm in southern Vermont. The farm conducts week long residential programs for urban students and day programs for local students.
This evaluation focused on the week-long, residential program. In this program, a group of students lives and eats together for a week in an on-farm dormitory. During the week they are responsible for numerous farm chores, including cleaning barns, feeding and caring for large and small animals, working in the garden, and many other activities. The students also have opportunities to participate in physical activities such as hiking. Dynamic academic lessons are interspersed throughout the experience.
According to farm literature, the intent is “…to reward these children with such lasting values as responsibility, self-confidence and the satisfaction of facing and overcoming challenges. By educating city kids about agriculture, something that is so different from their everyday lives, we hope to make an impression that will last a lifetime.”
Evaluation of Farms for City Kids
In spring 2005, the Farms for City Kids staff approached PEER Associates, Inc. with a request to conduct a program evaluation. PEER began the evaluation process by facilitating a workshop with staff and board members to discuss the purposes of evaluation, design an overall framework for the evaluation, and begin the development of a logic model for the program. This process of logic modeling helped to clarify what the intended outcomes of the program were and how the staff hoped to achieve them. The logic model was later refined with ongoing input from the farm staff. Though the logic model is an evolving tool, a working draft of the Farms for City Kids logic model can be found in Appendix A.
The evaluation was designed based on the ideas organized in the logic model and ongoing conversations with board and staff (see Appendix B for the Evaluation Overview). In order to capture and present a wide variety of data, the evaluation took multiple approaches. The first approach was to analyze existing evaluation data that had been collected by the farm from 2002-2005. The second was to conduct a case study of a single week at the farm. Third, evaluators planned to conduct interviews with a range of teachers and students who had been to the farm. As the evaluation process progressed, staff, board, and evaluators decided to modify the approach, choosing to use surveys rather than interviews in order to contact greater numbers of students and teachers. The analysis of these data sources and recommendations derived from that analysis are presented in this Evaluation Portfolio.
The Evaluation Portfolio
In order to maximize the flexible utilization of the evaluation findings they are offered here in a portfolio format. Depending on the reader or intended use, sections may be used independently or as a whole. A brief description of the six distinct sections follows:
I. Executive Summary – A summary and integrated analysis of the results of the different evaluation activities, including overall conclusions. This section is designed to stand alone from the larger report for dissemination to interested stakeholders.
II. Case Study of PS 233 – A brief, data-driven narrative tracking the experience of one group of students during their week at the farm.
III. Pre-Existing Data – Systematic analysis of previously collected teacher and student surveys, as well as video interviews conducted for promotional materials.
IV. Teacher And Student Survey Results – Description and analysis of data from teacher and student surveys administered during 2006.
V. Recommendations – Recommendations for program improvements and future or ongoing evaluation efforts.
VI. Appendices – Logic model, evaluation overview, survey instruments, and interview guides.