Exploring the Broader Impacts of The Wild Center’s Longstanding Youth Climate Program in Rural Contexts: Summative Evaluation

November 30th, 2023 | EVALUATION

We helped The Wild Center understand the impact of its longstanding youth climate program on participants in rural communities and, more broadly, its network of partners across New York state and beyond. 

Overview

We worked with The Wild Center and its partner, the Finger Lakes Institute, to conduct relationship mapping, a literature review, and a summative evaluation of their climate programming for youth and educators, funded through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Environmental Literacy Program (ELP) grant.  

The Wild Center has been running climate programs for over a decade and has embraced a culture of evaluation in its work to reflect on and improve the programs over time. This evaluation built on findings from prior evaluations to further explore the programs’ impact on rural youth and teachers, but also sought to understand broader contributions to the ecosystem of organizations doing climate resilience work across New York state and around the country.  

Approach 

 Our summative evaluation was preceded by three project milestones: 

  • Relationship Mapping Workshop to establish our theory of the baseline climate and resiliency relationships at the start of the project
  • Social Impact Framework to articulate and clarify the ultimate social impact of the project on rural communities in New York State through a social impact statement, outcomes, and indicators of success for key audiences.
  • Literature Review exploring the value of education in climate resilience and climate justice for rural communities (and the role museums could play), as well as Gen Z’s preferences for engaging in personal and collective climate action.

Building on these three pieces, we conducted a summative evaluation which included a diary study of youth participants, educator interviews, and a survey of partner organizations to holistically understand the programs’ impact. 

Client Takeaways

Notably, for the youth audience, originally Kera had planned to conduct telephone interviews, but experienced a low response rate and decided to adapt our approach to a format youth were more comfortable with–we pivoted to a diary study that involved responding via text message to a series of reflective prompts over the course of several weeks. This shift greatly improved youth enthusiasm to participate–and, The Wild Center highly valued the teens’ responses and images as creating a compelling story of the programs’ lasting impact over time. 

More broadly, results indicate The Wild Center and the Finger Lakes Institute’s youth climate work is contributing to a stronger and ever-expanding network of climate action. Organizations that have been involved in the youth climate programs are coming away with new and deepened relationships with other like-minded organizations, as well as new perspectives on how they can incorporate more youth voices into their climate work.

Document

2023_Kera-Collective_The-Wild-Center_Empowering-Rural-Youth-Summative-FINAL-REPORT.pdf

Team Members

Katie Chandler, Evaluator, Kera Collective
Rachel Jackson, Evaluator, Kera Collective
Hannah Heller, Evaluator, Kera Collective

Funders

Funding Source: NOAA
Funding Program: Environmental Literacy Program
Award Number: NA20SEC0080004
Funding Amount: $449,278

Tags

Access and Inclusion: Rural
Audience: Educators | Teachers | Youth | Teen (up to 17)
Discipline: Climate
Resource Type: Evaluation | Evaluation Reports | Summative
Environment Type: Museum and Science Center Programs | Professional Development and Workshops | Resource Centers and Networks

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This material is supported by National Science Foundation award DRL-2229061, with previous support under DRL-1612739, DRL-1842633, DRL-1212803, and DRL-0638981. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations contained within InformalScience.org are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of NSF.

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