State specialists and agents developed a Master Gardener training curriculum that consisted of a collection of powerpoint presentations in the year 2000. After three years of use this curriculum was in need of revision and updating. The revision process that utilized volunteers, agents, subject matter specialists as well as curriculum specialists will be presented. Suggestions for improvement were gleaned from three years of class evaluations. In addition to obvious updating of material, formatting the curriculum into a lesson plan with complete step-by-step instructions for teachers was required to enable the curriculum to be more easily taught by non-extension personnel such as Master Gardener Educators. Removal of all questionable copyrighted pictures, graphs, drawings, etc. from the original curriculum was accomplished. This process will allow Mississippi State to share this curriculum with other universities if requested without fear of legal repercussions. Aligning the student's training notebook to more accurately reflect the material presented in class was done also. Resource material lists were added and standardized tests for the new material were included. The incorporation of hands-on activities or demonstrations to more actively engage the student in the learning process was included as well. The entire revised training curriculum was contained on a compact disc that was made available to instructors.
Lelia S. Kelly*
In a time of budgetary constraints, reorganization of many extension services and other changes in the educational system, identifying and implementing non-traditional ways to deliver programming is a critical issue if extension is to continue to deliver quality, timely educational programs to clientele. Innovative methods that can be used to efficiently and economically deliver programming would be desirable and beneficial. This presentation will address how Mississippi State Univ. Extension Service, due to the changes listed above, is addressing the lack of extension instructors to teach the basic training curriculum of the Master Gardener (MG) program. In order to continue to meet the public demand for these classes and safeguard the integrity of the instruction, a new process of identifying, training and evaluating “senior” MG volunteers as instructors in the basic training curriculum of the program has been implemented. How this process was initiated and buy-in of administrators, county extension MG coordinators, volunteers and state specialists was established will be presented. The process of selecting, training, and evaluating of these MG certified educators would also be presented. Difficulties encountered with implementing this new system of program delivery utilizing volunteers in addition to the traditional specialist or agent instructor will be presented as well.
Lelia S. Kelly
In a time of budgetary constraints, new strategies have to be developed if we are to continue to meet the demand for home horticulture information. This on-campus event was developed as one of those strategies. The goal of this event was to provide a train-the-trainer opportunity that would equip selected Master Gardeners to assume a larger role in the delivery of home horticulture information. Training needs were determined and included advanced training in insect and disease management, leadership, presentation skills, and computer skills. Educational materials were provided and “graduates” were given the charge of going back to their county groups and sharing what they had learned. Other goals of the event were to provide an opportunity to tour campus facilities, meet key university personnel, and provide recognition and motivation. Sixty-eight Master Gardeners attended this two-day pilot event in May. On-site evaluations were very positive with attendees ranking the educational sessions most beneficial of the activities provided. Year end reporting from the counties indicated that Master Gardeners conducted 82% more public programs in 2004, 49% more home visits and handled 18% more homeowner calls. Part of this substantial increase in program delivery can be contributed to the training these volunteers received at this event. Personal communication with county directors and Master Gardeners indicate that these volunteers are assuming more of a leadership role in the management of the county Master Gardener
Lelia S. Kelly and Julie Sexton
The Master Gardener program continues to be one of the most popular and effective programs of Extension. Budget cutbacks and an everdecreasing pool of Extension personnel have warranted a reappraisal of how Extension trains these volunteers. The purpose of this project was to develop an up-to-date, complete, and user-friendly training program that could be used by agents or selected Master Gardeners with a minimum of training and advance preparation. Eleven subject matter specialists, 35 Extension agents, hundreds of Master Gardeners, and three curriculum specialists were all involved in this 2-year project. In addition to obvious updating of material, a sampling of objectives that were addressed in the process follows: 1) format the curriculum into a lesson plan with complete step-by-step instructions; 2) remove all questionable copyrighted pictures, graphs, drawings, etc.; 3) align the student manual to the material presented in the PowerPoint lessons; 4) incorporate a resource list of hands-on activities to support each lesson; 5) provide a reference list for each lesson; 6) provide a standardized test with answer key for complete curriculum; and 7) place the entire training curriculum on a compact disc. This project was completed in Summer 2005. Publication and copyrighting of a compact disc that represented the training resources for the Master Gardener program was a first for Mississippi State University Extension Service.
Lelia S. Kelly, Michael Newman, and Ken Hood
Extension specialists are charged with developing programs and publications based on audience needs. In consumer horticulture it can be difficult to gauge the needs that are client driven rather than extension driven. This study was an attempt to gather herb gardening information directly from gardeners. In total, 188 Master Gardeners completed a questionnaire that included questions ranging from the use of OTC herbal supplements to preservation methods. Analysis of data indicated that, based on sex, age or household income, participants were not different in most of their responses. When asked to check all the reasons they grew herbs, the top two were culinary and ornamental. Thirty-seven percent took OTC herbal supplements and 35% of those did so without their doctor's knowledge. Twelve percent indicated they treated themselves or family members for a medical condition using homegrown herbs. There was a significant difference between male and female when answering this question. Thirty-two percent of the male sample compared to just 9% of the females provided this home treatment. Primary propagation method was transplants. Pesticide use was minimal with only 2% using these. Easiest herbs to grow were rosemary, mint and basil in that order. Most popular herbs for cooking were basil, rosemary and chives. Top preservation method was drying, but freezing, vinegars and even herbal liquors were popular methods. Study results indicate that information dealing with cooking or ornamental uses of herbs would be popular. New ideas for old favorites as well as including new herbal cultivars would be useful. Nutritive and health issues, in particular involving herbal supplements, would be an opportunity for collaborative work with health and nutrition specialists.
Robert F. Brzuszek, Richard L. Harkess, and Lelia Kelly
The Master Gardener program is a volunteer horticultural training and an educational outreach program developed and managed by state cooperative extension services. Previous research in the southeastern United States revealed that landscape architects and contractors are increasingly using native plant materials in their projects and this often exceeds regional plant availability. A survey of green industry in the region showed supply is driven by consumer demand and education. To determine if native plant demand is encountered by plant purchasers other than landscape architects, this study evaluates the interest level and market use of native plants by Master Gardeners of six southeastern states. A web-based survey was developed, and Master Gardeners were invited to participate by their state Master Gardener coordinators. The survey included questions on how Master Gardeners use native plants in their home landscape, how they best learn about them, the species they have purchased, and their interest level. A total of 979 Master Gardeners completed the survey. Results revealed that this particular consumer group is enthusiastic about native plants and supports the landscape professionals' claims that marketing for native plants could improve if plants were available at more retail outlets, by having more types (herbaceous plants, shrubs, and trees) and species for sale, and by offering greater quantities of plants.
Ellen M. Bauske, Lelia Kelly, Kerry Smith, Lucy Bradley, Timothy Davis, and Pam Bennett
Extension Master Gardener (EMG) volunteers are key to effective dissemination of horticultural information to the public. The goal of this workshop was to identify techniques to increase the capacity and effectiveness of EMG volunteers. The workshop focused on projects and tools that reduce the administrative burden of managing volunteers, increase the scope of issues that volunteers are prepared to address, and pool volunteer efforts and resources across county lines. Two online systems for managing and reporting EMG volunteer activities were described. Both systems are intuitive, user-friendly, and updated without the assistance of web managers. Regional web-based, advanced training on specific topics was used to expand educational messages of EMG volunteers and eliminate the costs associated with face-to-face training. Presentations were made using distance learning technologies and resources were shared online. Hosting agents tailored hands-on supporting activities to meet local needs. Volunteers expanded extension outreach by answering noncommercial landscape and garden telephone questions. Many of the administrative, logistical, and resource burdens associated with the EMG helpline phone service were overcome by working across county lines, standardizing training, centralizing supporting resources, and clustering volunteers into regional telephone helpline offices. Other projects and tools presented in the workshop focused on the need to affirm and/or foster the volunteers' connection with the university and the outreach mission of Cooperative Extension.