The first question on the student survey asked, “What was the most important lesson you learned on the farm?” Distilled into themes (see table at right) it is evident that students are divided between the practical specifics of working on a farm (knowledge, animal care, hard work) and the underlying behaviors they practiced to get the job done (teamwork, responsibility). To clarify the meaning of the table, “22% reporting” means that twenty two percent of the total number of “most important lessons learned” by students pertained to farm knowledge.
When asked “While you were at the farm, did you discover new abilities or personal qualities?” 90% of students responded that they had. The abilities and qualities they discovered (see table at left) reflect similar themes to those in the question above. A greater percentage of students offered new abilities than personal qualities.
Yes and no responses to other student survey questions are listed in the table below.
The details of students’ responses to all of the above questions, combined with the responses to open-ended questions on the teacher surveys provided a rich data set out of which many major themes and sub-themes emerged as program impacts. It should be noted that the following outline does not represent any ranked order.
It is evident that the weeklong experience at Spring Brook Farm had numerous positive impacts on the students who participated. Themes emerging from both student and teacher surveys demonstrate that the program is achieving many of its stated goals.
Synthesis of findingsData from the many sources paint a compelling and coherent picture of what is happening at Spring Brook Farm. Similar themes emerged in all of the data sets described above. There is substantial conceptual overlap in the themes, although they are kept separate to help create a more intricate understanding and analysis of the program outcomes. For example, one student stated “I learned how to milk a cow,” which simply suggests that he acquired farm skills. Answering the same question, another student reflected that “I never thought I could milk a cow but I did, and it was cool.” In addition to providing evidence about farm skills, this statement suggests that the student made gains in their self-confidence and felt greater appreciation for farming.
Students were experiencing personal growth in a myriad of ways. The most prominent changes appear to be to students’ perceptions of their own abilities, potential, and personal worth. Data also indicated that students develop greater personal responsibility, compassion, and work ethics.
In addition to these personal skills, students were developing socially on a number of fronts. Development of cooperation and teamwork skills was the primary theme in this realm. Other related skills and values that students developed include conflict resolution, respect for others, improved personal friendships, getting closer with their teachers, and bonding as a group.
The farm itself, and especially the animals, made a lasting impression on the program participants. Even when asked how they changed personally, many students offered examples of farm knowledge, and expressed their deep connection with the animals they worked with over the week. Indeed, it was their daily work with animals that provided for many of the gains in self-confidence and self-esteem.
Finally, less prominent outcomes emerged in the realms of environmental stewardship and appreciation for healthy lifestyles. As the evaluation did not focus great attention on these themes, it is unclear how deep or widespread the impacts are in these areas.
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