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Extension > Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds, Healthy Learners > Evaluating What We Did, Why It Matters, and Where We're Going Next


On this blog, we share regular updates about the Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds, Healthy Learners partnership between Extension's Children, Youth & Family Consortium and Bruce Vento Elementary School.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Evaluating What We Did, Why It Matters, and Where We're Going Next

By: Chelsea Hetherington

Imagine you’re considering buying a new car. How do you decide which car is right for you? You might compare cost across different models, talk to your friends about which models have more or less merit, and consider how different models might meet your needs. Then, based on the information you’ve gathered, you would evaluate your options and make a judgment (i.e., decide which car to buy).

Now imagine you’re a school principal where a comprehensive program was recently enacted. The program targeted supporting students’ success in school, increasing access to healthy foods, and fostering a supportive school community. Did the program achieve these goals? Was it worth the time, money, and effort put into it? It is any better than what the school was doing before?

Program evaluation can help answer these kinds of questions by systematically collecting information so that the usefulness or effectiveness of a program can be discovered. Evaluation can also help people understand what’s working in a program and what’s not working so that it can be improved moving forward.

All set up to interview teachers and staff!
For the Bruce Vento Elementary School collaboration, we spoke to teachers, school staff, and parents to gather feedback on how the program was working and the impact it had on students and the school community. Here are my takeaways from working on this evaluation:
  • Respect for other people's time and experience is a key part of a good evaluation. Because parents and teachers were taking time out of their day to talk to us, we strove to take up as little of their time as possible and not be intrusive. We also worked with translators in speaking with parents, as many Bruce Vento parents are more comfortable communicating in their native language.
  • Listening to others’ perspectives and viewpoints has its own value. The parents, teachers, and staff we spoke to appreciated being listened to and asked about their experiences. Many of them thanked us for having an opportunity to share their perspective on the program.
  • Enthusiasm isn’t a required part of an evaluation, but it sure helps! Everyone we worked with on the evaluation was enthusiastic about the program and excited to hear our results. Having enthusiasm behind the project makes the experience better for everyone and ensures that the results will be put to good use.
In general, teachers, staff, and parents said that the program had a positive impact on students and the school community. One Bruce Vento staff member noted that the garden promoted respect and cooperation in students: “What I’ve also noticed is, that the kids respect it. It’s not torn up, they don’t go through it, they don’t step on it, they literally walk around it, they’re paying attention to it, they love it.”

Future blog posts will talk more about the results of the evaluation. Stay tuned to read more about what we found!


Healthy Minds, Healthy Bodies, Healthy Learners is an ongoing partnership between the Extension Children, Youth, and Family Consortium and the Bruce Vento Elementary School. Together, along with many other partners, we are developing engaging learning environments that promote student learning and wellness.

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