URBANA, Ill. – A popular Extension gardening program was honored by University of Illinois Extension for its dedication to constant evaluation and adaptation of educational programming. The Four Seasons Gardening series addresses home and community garden issues that encourage residents to protect the environment, grow food safely, and save money by reducing unnecessary inputs.
In 2021, the monthly online webinars reached nearly 2,500 people live; recorded videos received more than 6,800 views. Ninety-three percent of respondents say they took action based on information they received during a Four Seasons webinar.
Since 2019, in addition to the customized session evaluations after each webinar, the team implemented an end-of-the-year survey to track impact and change of behavior from participants. The evaluation process represents a gold-standard approach to program development and delivery.
“The team has used the evaluation information to help inform and drive improvements, ask questions about the program, and continue the engagement beyond the webinar,” says Chris Enroth, Illinois Extension horticulture educator.
The award-winning team includes horticulture educators Gemini Bhalsod, Nancy Kreith, and Andrew Holsinger and Extension evaluation specialist Karen Winter-Nelson.
The gardening series increased participant knowledge and expanded practices that support healthy environments and sustainable landscapes, such as feeding pollinators and increased use of native plants.
“The team's evaluation process was effective at documenting and achieving program short-term and medium-term goals, increasing participant knowledge, expanding practices that support plant health, therapeutic uses of plants and gardens, and sustainable landscapes,” says Willene Buffet, Extension county director. ”The Four Seasons evaluation tools could serve as a model for other statewide webinar programs in need of demonstrating impact.”
Information about upcoming webinars is available at go.illinois.edu/FourSeasonsGardening.
“The Four Seasons webinar series remains a reliable and trusted source of information for Illinois residents and those beyond our state borders,” Enroth says.
PHOTO: A team of horticulture educators and evaluation specialist was recognized by University of Illinois Extension for excellence in program evaluation. The award was presented by Illinois Extension Director Shelly Nickols-Richardson, far right, during the Extension Annual Conference in November. Accepting the award are, left to right, Nancy Kreith, Andrew Holsinger, Gemini Bhalsod, and Karen Winter-Nelson.
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