Journal of the NACAA
ISSN 2158-9429
Volume 7, Issue 1 - May, 2014

A Summative Evaluation of Nevadaís Youth Range Campís Educational Program

Foster, S. S., Extension Educator, University Of Nevada Cooperative Extension
Schultz, B., Extension Educator, University Of Nevada Cooperative Extension
McAdoo, K., University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, Specialist, Rangeland Resources, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension
Swanson, S., Range/Riparian Specialist, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension

ABSTRACT

Since 1961, The Nevada Youth Range Camp (NYRC) has provided a week-long camping and instructional experience for high school-age youth from across Nevada and occasionally North-eastern California. Nevada Youth Range Camp goals focus on relationships between people and rangeland. Campers learn that land managers need information about plants, wildlife, water and soil to make good decisions about rangeland management and use. They learn basic skills about rangeland and resource management and explore career opportunities in these fields. The camp challenges youth to explore resource problems and create logical solutions. In 2009, a summative evaluation of the camp’s educational program was conducted to measure participant’s gains in knowledge for the major curriculum topics. Behavior/attitude changes of participants towards appreciation of Nevada’s rangelands, possible career goals and their future involvement in public rangeland issues were also evaluated. An increase in knowledge was evident in all areas tested, ranging from 10 to 54 percent increase in test scores between the pre-test and post-test. In addition, changes of behavior/attitudes were documented with an improvement in the camper’s appreciation for Nevada’s rangelands ranking the highest.


Introduction

Nevada is a state of contrasts. The state is the seventh largest, covering 109,778 square miles, but over 86 percent of the population (2.7 million people) lives in three metropolitan areas that cover only 604 square miles (Table 1). By far, the vast majority of the State’s population lives on about one-half of one percent of the state’s land. Of the other 99.5 percent of Nevada, almost 83 percent (Harris, Riggs, & Zimmerman, 2001) consists of federally administered rangelands (including pinyon-juniper woodlands), which are managed largely by the Bureau of Land Management and United States Forest Service, with much smaller tracts administered by United States Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service  and Department of Defense. Of the state’s 13 percent private lands, about 9,164 square miles (49.1 percent) is devoted to agriculture, with range and pasture land accounting for about 8,376 square miles and irrigated crops about 788 square miles (Nevada Agricultural Statistics, 2007).

The aforementioned statistics clearly demonstrate that the bulk of Nevada’s youth live in large urban environments, which suggests most have little exposure to rangelands, forests, or agricultural environments, and the products and services they provide the American public. Many have referred to this as a nature deficit (Allen, Varner, & Sallee, 2011 and Louv, 2005). Limited exposure to these environments suggests that Nevada’s (and probably America’s) youth are increasingly less predisposed to seek education, vocations, or project experiences in the natural resources, particularly on the large isolated rangelands found in the western United States. The situation is self-perpetuating in that fewer people in our society are agriculturally oriented than in the past, especially those sufficiently familiar with rangelands to promote or teach the subject (Stechman, 1982).

Urban Area

Population

Area Covered (square miles)

 


Table 1. Population data for the state of Nevada.

Las Vegas/Henderson

1,866,011

417

Reno/Sparks

392,141

164

Carson City

58,079

23

Total for urban areas above

2,336,221

604

Nevada

2,700,557

109,778

Percent Urban

87%

0.55%

  
Since 1961, The Nevada Youth Range Camp (NYRC) has provided a week-long camping and instructional experience for high school-age youth from across Nevada and occasionally Northeastern California. University of Nevada Cooperative Extension faculty, along with specialists from the University of Nevada, Reno; Natural Resources Conservation Service; Bureau of Land Management; Forest Service; Nevada Division of Forestry; Nevada Division of Conservation Districts; Nevada Department of Wildlife; and others collaborate to provide a unique educational experience. Cooperative Extension and the Nevada Section of the Society sponsor the camp for Range Management. Cooperative Extension and the Nevada Section of the Society sponsor the camp for Range Management.

Campers arrive by noon on Sunday and break camp the following Saturday morning. Campers register and form groups with an adult counselor and an assistant youth counselor. Assistant counselors are youth who previously attended the program. The daily program runs from 7 a.m. until lights out at 10 p.m. There is time in the late afternoon and evening for rest and recreation, including fishing for trout in Big Creek.

Adult supervisors are present throughout the entire week. Parents and sponsors are welcome to visit the camp any time and are especially invited for the Friday night awards program. The evening programs are geared more for enjoyment and personal interest and include primitive skills demonstration, wildlife presentations and campfires.

The goals of Nevada Youth Range Camp focus on relationships between people and rangeland. Campers learn that land managers need information about plants, wildlife, water and soil to make good decisions about rangeland management and use. They learn basic skills about rangeland and resource management and explore career opportunities in these fields. The camp challenges youth to explore resource problems and create logical solutions. It helps future leaders develop the perspective to understand rangeland resources and their relationship to society.

Among the instructional topics are Rangeland Soils, Proper Function and Condition of Streams, Water Quality, Sagebrush Rangelands, Rangeland Plants, Wildlife Habitat, Land Navigation, and Rangeland Management.

Seevers, Graham, Gamon and Conklin (1997) defined evaluation as “… the systematic process of determining the worth of a person, product, or program. Determining the worth of Extension programs is a continuous process that is essential at all three stages of Extension’s educational program efforts: planning, design and implementation, and evaluation.” Evaluations of educational programs are a critical component of the program development process.  Evaluations are used to determine if a program is relevant, determine the value of a program to clientele and how the future of the program can be refocused or redirected if needed.

In 2009, an evaluation of the camp’s educational program was conducted to measure knowledge gains of participants and changes in attitudes/behavior.  Additionally, evaluation data collected was used to document accountability and make decisions for program modifications.

Methods

A pre-test and post-test instrument was developed and reviewed by Extension Educators involved with the camp. The evaluation instruments were designed specifically to measure and document changes in camp participant’s knowledge and understanding of curriculum objectives, and also, changes in attitudes/behaviors related to rangeland issues.

The pre-test and post-test instruments contained 34 similar closed-end questions (multiple choice and true/false/don’t know) relating to the camp curriculum objectives. These instruments were utilized to measure changes in knowledge and understanding. In addition, the post-test instrument contained five Likert-type scale questions ranging from 1 – strongly disagree to 5 – strongly agree to determine changes in behaviors and/or attitudes towards rangeland issues. Quantitative results were summarized using percentages for changes in knowledge (Figure 1), and mean averages for indicating changes in behaviors/attitudes (Table 2).

 

Figure 1. 2009 youth range camp evaluation of knowledge gained.

 

Table 2. 2009 youth range camp evaluation of changes in behaviors/attitudes on rangeland issues.

On a scale of 1-5  (1 = Strongly Disagree, 5 = Strongly Agree), N=28

Questions: Average Score

The Nevada Youth Range Camp has increased my interest in  studying "Range Management" in college?

3.85

Would you recommend to your friends to attend the  Nevada Youth Range Camp?

3.92

My appreciation of Nevada’s rangelands has improved?

4.42

Because of what I learned at Range Camp I am more willing to attend a public meeting about the management of Nevada’s rangelands?

3.38

After attending the Nevada Youth Range Camp, if you are provided the opportunity to write a report or assemble a project in your high school science classes, are you more or less likely to select a topic or issue related to Nevada’s rangelands?

3.85

 

Results

An increase in knowledge was evident in all areas tested, ranging from 10-54 percent increase between pre-test and post-test scores (Table 3).

 

Table 3. Percentage change between pre-test and post-test of curriculum objectives.

Subject Area Tested

% Change

Rangeland Management

+30%

Land Navigation

+17%

Rangeland Soils

+49%

Water Quality

+54%

Rangeland Plants

+31%

Proper Function Condition of Riparian Areas

+10%

Wildlife Habitat

+17%

 

The evaluation of behavior and attitude change of camp participants were rated on a Likert scale of 1-5, (1 = Strongly Disagree, 5 = Strongly Agree). All questions received an average score of 3.38 or higher, with a range of 3.38 to 4.27.  The most significant indication of attitude change was that Camper’s appreciation of Nevada’s rangelands was improved by attending camp, as indicated by an average mean score of 4.27. Indications of behavioral changes were implied by responses to “The Nevada Youth Range Camp has increased by interest in studying range management in College,” and “After attending the Nevada Youth Range Camp, if you are provided the opportunity to write a report or assemble a project in your high school science classes, are you more or less likely to select a topic or issue related to Nevada’s rangeland?” which both received an average mean score of 3.85.

Conclusion

Nevada Youth Range Camp exposes high school students to the physical and biological foundations required to manage rangelands and their natural resources. Participation in Range Camp allows students to gain exposure to the educational and career opportunities available for the study and management of rangelands. They learn this material through direct interaction with university faculty and career professionals employed by numerous federal and state agencies. This evaluation has documented large increases in knowledge about rangelands and changes in perceptions about the importance and value of rangelands. Findings of this evaluation have led to the development of a formal curriculum and the creation of a Youth Camp Plant Identification Guide, which is in the draft and review stage.

These changes in knowledge and attitude are important in an increasingly urbanized country where every resident is legally allowed (via the National Environmental Policy Act -NEPA-) to have input on resource management decisions on Federally administered lands, regardless of where they live. Findings of this evaluation have led to the development of formal curriculum materials (listed below) and the creation of a Youth Camp Plant Identification Guide, which is in the peer-review stage of development.

Additional, information about Nevada Youth Range Camp can be found on the Nevada Section of the Society for Range Management website: http://nevada.rangelands.org/Range%20Camp.html.

Nevada Youth Range Camp Curriculum materials

Swanson, Sherman and G. McCuin. 2010. Simulating Coordinated Resource Management - Nevada Youth Range Camp. University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Curriculum Material CM-10-09. 16 pp. http://www.unce.unr.edu/publications/files/nr/2010/cm1009.pdf

Swanson, Sherman. 2010. Pinyon and Juniper Investigation - Nevada Youth Range Camp. University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Curriculum Material CM-10-010. 19 pp. http://www.unce.unr.edu/publications/files/nr/2010/cm1010.pdf

Swanson, Sherman and J. Fisher. 2010. Soils Investigation - Nevada Youth Range Camp. University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Curriculum Material CM-10-08. 26 pp. http://www.unce.unr.edu/publications/files/nr/2010/cm1008.pdf

Swanson, Sherman 2010. Stream Investigation - Nevada Youth Range Camp. University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Curriculum Material CM-10-07. 20 pp. http://www.unce.unr.edu/publications/files/nr/2010/cm1007.pdf

REFERENCES

Allen, K.,Varner, K., & Sallee, J. (2011). Addressing nature deficit disorder through primitive camping experiences. Journal of Extension, [On-line], 49(3). Available at: http://www.joe.org/joe/2011june/iw2.php

Harris, T., Riggs, W., & Zimmerman, J. (2001). Public lands in the state of Nevada: An overview (Fact Sheet 01-32). Retrieved from University of Nevada Cooperative Extension  website: http://www.unce.unr.edu/publications/files/cd/2001/fs0132.pdf

Seevers, B., Graham, D., Gamon, J., Conklin, N. (1997). Education Through Cooperative Extension. Albany, NY: Delmar Publishers.

Stechman, J.V. (1982). Range Management Education for - Youth An Enigma. Rangelands 4(1), February 1982.