What difference are environmental education programs making? How can environmental education programs be improved to better meet their educational, environmental, and human health goals? These are some of the key questions environmental educators and their supporters seek to answer.
Environmental educators recognize that evaluation provides one way through which these questions can be answered and are therefore interested in conducting evaluations of their programs. Many environmental educators, however, also feel they lack the experience, information, and resources they need to conduct evaluations. My Environmental Education Resource Assistant (MEERA) was created because of this growing interest in evaluation and to help meet environmental educators evaluation needs.
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MEERA's goal is to support the evaluation efforts of environmental educators. MEERA seeks to meet this goal by facilitating access to relevant information and resources through a single, web-based location (See MEERA's Logic Model for more information).
MEERA has five guiding principles:
1) Meet the needs of environmental educators with a range of evaluation experience
Environmental educators' evaluation experiences differ from practitioner to practitioner. In light of this, MEERA seeks to address the different needs of "beginner," "intermediate," and "advanced" evaluators. MEERA uses three different color labels to point environmental educators to information and resources most appropriate for their evaluation skill level.
2) Focus on program evaluation with an emphasis on measuring outcomes
Though it is important for practitioners to assess program participants' needs and to engage in on-going formative evaluations, MEERA's focus is on supporting summative evaluations. This is because environmental educators and their supporters have indicated that they are most interested in assessing program outcomes and impacts.
3) Build on existing resources
There is a growing number of quality evaluation information and resources, including ones specifically for environmental educators. MEERA facilitates easy access to these resources by identifying, describing, and organizing them as well as providing direct links to these resources. MEERA only creates new content and resources when existing ones do not sufficiently meet environmental educators' needs.
4) Selective, rather than comprehensive focus
Comprehensive websites that attempt to gather every possible resource for inclusion tend to become overwhelming due to their volume of information and complex navigation schemes. To avoid these challenges, MEERA seeks to be selective and attempts to identify the best or most unique resources.
5) Provide enhanced usability
Website users structure information differently and access websites through a variety of ways. MEERA therefore cross-links information to maximize users' ability to find the information they seek.
MEERA is organized to meet environmental educators' needs in the following ways:
|Learn about the purpose and process of evaluation||
|Insight into EE evaluation in practice||
|Use MEERA in intuitive ways||
For notification of additions to MEERA,.
MEERA was developed based on input and guidance by the partners and steering committee members (see below). In addition, MEERA relied on needs assessments and on-going formative evaluations to improve drafts of the site. Improvements were made, for example, based on feedback from individual reviewers, discussion groups, and user statistics. Plans for an outcome evaluation are under development.
Michaela Zint, University of Michigan
Andrew Burnett, USDA Forest Service
Kathleen MacKinnon, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Barbara McDonald, USDA Forest Service
Steering Commitee Members
Elaine Andrews, University of Wisconsin - Madison
Jack Chin, Blueprint Research & Design Inc.
Gabriel Della-Piana, NSF Division of Research, Evaluation & Communication
Deron Davis, Georgia Department of Natural Resources
M. Lynette Fleming, Research, Evaluation & Development Services
Rosanne W. Fortner, Environmental Education Consulting
Peter Gordon, Elachee Nature Science Center
Joe Heimlich, Ohio State University; Institute for Learning Innovation
Susan Jacobson, University of Florida - Gainesville
Deborah Simmons, Northern Illinois University
Richard Wilke, University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point
Judy Braus, National Audubon Society
Elizabeth H. Danter, E. Danter Evaluation, LLC
Anita Kraemer, eeEvaluations
Ron Meyers, Ron Meyers & Associates
Marcella Wells, Wells Resources
University of Michigan Students and Alumni
Brian T. Barch, School of Natural Resources & Environment
Beth Covitt, School of Natural Resources & Environment
Jason Duvall, School of Natural Resources & Environment
Amy Higgs, School of Education, School of Natural Resources & Environment
Nick Montgomery, School of Education
Jennifer Sellers, School of Natural Resources & Environment
Kim Wolske, School of Natural Resources & Environment
Computer Consultants and Assistants
Autumm Caines, Eastern Michigan University
Hsin-Yun Hsieh, University of Michigan, School of Education
Nick Montgomery, University of Michigan, School of Education
Paul Nowak, North American Association for Environmental Education
Ken Wasetis, Contextual Corp.
Feedback for how to improve MEERA has been received from numerous environmental educators including:
Kimberly Benson, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration
Nadine Bloch, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration
Jennifer Dillard, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
Janice Easton, University of Florida
Megan Gavin, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Lauren Greene, Dunwoody Nature Center
Sally Hanft, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Don Howlett, USDA Forest Service
Becky Jones, Elachee Nature Science Center
Kristi Kantola, USDA Forest Service
Rainey Kreis, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
Nate Meyer, University of Minnesota Extension Service