Muddy Sneakers: Figuring out what to measure


Surveying the group’s work

This week we returned to the mountains to work with Muddy Sneakers.  The main objective: figuring out what we are going to measure.  We gathered an advisory board to help us: Muddy Sneakers staff, teachers who work with the program, school administrators, and board members.


Small group work


I’ll confess I love a good logic model.  At first glance, they look pretty tedious and boring, but they’re really useful in organizing thoughts on what aspects of a program work (at least and theory) and why.  During the meeting, we used a logic model to help us think through how the program works.  I posed the following questions:


What key resources does Muddy Sneakers have that makes it successful?
What are the most important activities Muddy Sneakers does to make it successful?
What outputs do those activities accomplish?  For example how many people are served and in what way?
What short-term outcomes do students experience because of their participation in Muddy Sneakers?
What long-term impacts can we hope for?


Putting it all together

We broke into groups to answer these questions and then compiled all our answers as a whole.  Our goal as the research/evaluation team will be to identify which key outcomes and impacts we can feasibly measure.

Their enthusiasm for the program was infectious, and they made the process as fun as it was productive.  We are excited to get started!


Muddy Sneakers Kick-off


Student constructing a fort during reflection time

This week, I completed my first site visit with Muddy Sneakers and came back even more excited about this project.  I went into the field two days and was wholly impressed with the quality of teaching, engagement of the kids, and as always, the shear beauty of Western North Carolina.


I was able to observe two “School in the Woods” days, which instructors use to introduce students to things like how to avoid poison ivy, how to use the bathroom in the woods, and how to use a compass.  And, because Muddy Sneakers is all about teaching science, students completed their first science experiment testing the validity of the statement “Moss only grows on the north side of trees.”  They engaged in the scientific process beautifully – generating related research questions and hypotheses, using their newly acquired (or honed) compass skills to collect data, organized results in groups, and reported their findings at the closing circle with the whole school.



Learning compass skills

I was glad I was able to see two separate schools.  For being in such close proximity, these students were so different.   One group was from outside of Hendersonville and made comments about how the stairs on the trail were like the ones in Mario.  The next day, I shadowed a group from near the SC boarder who had all been hunting before.  One (ten year old) girl exclaimed, “I hunt dear, and bear, AND turkey!”  Students were ethnically and racially diverse, and from my limited observations seem to have a wide range of ways they relate to the environment!



I returned to Raleigh spinning with the possibilities of what we could dive in to this project.  Intuitively, I know Muddy Sneakers is making a big impact, but the challenge will be to work with Muddy Sneakers staff, teachers, and students to figure out what the most important impacts are and how to measure them.  Some that come to mind:

  • Building observation skills
  • Connection to nature
  • Pro-envionmental attitudes
  • Interest in science
  • Confidence in science

What others can you think of??