Written by Pat Kight and Tiffany Woods for Fall/Winter 2016 issue of Confluence

 

[Editor’s note: Involving youth and teachers in citizen science evolves into interests in natural resource careers, stronger connections to the natural world, and fuller student experiences. Oregon Sea Grant offers many opportunities for citizen scientists, as this story exemplifies, and it also exemplifies community engagement.]

 

A dozen fourth- and fifth-grade Girl Scouts splash in the shade-dappled shallows of Rock Creek, southwest of Corvallis, trying to scoop up tiny aquatic insects with small dip nets and deposit them into plastic dish tubs.

They’re learning about their watershed—and getting a taste of what it’s like to be a scientist—thanks to Oregon Sea Grant’s StreamWebs program.

The statewide program provides educators with field equipment, data sheets, lesson plans and training so they can teach students how to collect data about the health of waterways. It also provides an online database where students can enter and analyze the information they gathered.

“What’s special about StreamWebs is it’s a way for teachers to extend students’ field experience into the classroom,” said the program’s coordinator, Renee O’Neill.

Between August 2014 and July 2015, more than 350 students participated in the program and more than 70 educators were trained on how to use the resources that StreamWebs provides, O’Neill said. During that same period, StreamWebs loaned scientific testing equipment 650 times to educators.

The equipment, contained in plastic totes, can be checked out online and picked up from the Oregon Sea Grant (OSG) office in Corvallis or the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport. Each tote—called a kit—addresses specific learning objectives.There’s a kit with equipment to measure the temperature, pH, turbidity and dissolved oxygen of water. There’s another with measuring tapes, ropes and soil augers so kids can document the vegetation in a designated space and characterize the soil along riparian areas. Tubs of rubber boots and clipboards can even be checked out.

Lesson plans and handouts for recording data are available on the StreamWebs website, as are two new videos produced by OSG that show how to use the kits for studying water quality and macroinvertebrates.

The kit the girls at Rock Creek are using is the one for collecting macroinvertebrates, such as caddisflies, mayflies, crayfish, snails and water striders. The girls are being instructed by Guillermo Giannico, a fish ecology and watershed specialist with OSG Extension and a researcher with Oregon State University’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife. They bring their catch to a card table propped among the streambank rocks, and use hand lenses and an identification sheet to name what they’ve caught.

“I got a stonefly nymph,” one girl exclaims, pointing at the tiny animal’s distinctive tail appendages—and then: “I got another stonefly! I am the queen of stoneflies!”

Once back at a computer, students can upload their findings onto the StreamWebs website so that they and others—including the public—can analyze the health of various watersheds over time.

“The site makes it more like doing real- life science,” said Emmet Whittaker, a science teacher at Lebanon High School who uses StreamWebs in his classroom. “[Students] see how the data can be used over time [and] how they can be shared with other scientists.”

On the website, an interactive map of the state pinpoints where data have been collected. For example, clicking on the pinpoint for D River shows that students at Taft High School in Lincoln City recorded an average pH of 5.9 on Nov. 18, 2014, and 6.76 on May 23, 2016. Site names are also listed alphabetically from Agate Beach to the Zigzag River.

Since the program’s inception, 850 people have created accounts on the website, O’Neill said. Between August 2015 and July 2016, about 120 people contributed data, 503 data sheets were uploaded, and 41 new locations were entered, she said.

 

Based on a press release written by Kym Pokorny, August 2016, and edited by Ann Marie Murphy

 

Morghan Gifford forgoes unhealthy food for watermelon after helping to promote healthy snacks. Photo: Kelly McLaughlin.

My best friend and I would head to her house after school for a clandestine snack: a frozen Twinkie –maybe an occasional Ding Dong – and grape juice. Neither were in my family’s pantry, so it always felt like an extra special treat. 4-H kids in Union County would not approve of my youthful snacking habits and they likely would try to persuade the younger me to switch to healthier foods.

As part of a project for their 4-H club called Students Now Advocating to Create (Healthy Snacking) Zones, or SNACZ, club members wanted to create healthy “snack zones.” The students worked with six “corner stores” to have some chips, candy and other high-fat, high-sugar foods replaced with nutritious foods.

The SNACZ program provides youth with leadership opportunities. In the process, the kids:

  • Promote healthy snacking among their peers and parents
  • Advocate for changes in school policies and practices to support healthy snacking
  • Collaborate with local food store owners to promote healthy snacks in the stores

“In light of the obesity and diabetes crisis in this country, we felt like this was an important role for the kids to play, especially in our rural communities,” said David Melville, Oregon State University Extension Service 4-H program coordinator in Union County.

The kids, who are in fourth through eighth grade, work with their schools to encourage healthy snacks at fundraisers, classroom parties and concession stands. Unlike school cafeterias, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Smart Snacks in Schools nutrition guidelines don’t apply to those situations.

Led by 4-H leaders and program staff, the students spoke to teachers, store owners and at school board meetings to get the project up and running. They promoted the program with coupons, tastings, giveaways and contests.

“We wanted to be involved, to do something for the kids’ sake,” said Robbyn Ludwig, co-owner of Elgin Store where one of the SNACZ zones was installed. “A lot of junk goes out with kids, so it’s nice to have the stores involved in trying to get them to eat healthier.”

Nancy Findholt, professor at the Oregon Health & Science University school of nursing, has been researching the factors that influence childhood obesity in Union County for 12 years. She’s found that the corner stores, which are close to schools, were frequently visited by students during breaks and after school to buy unhealthy snacks.

“Schools and nearby stores have a strong influence on kids’ eating habits, said Findholt, who heads up the project that’s funded by a grant through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. “We wanted to turn it around and make those habits healthy, so we decided to get the kids involved in outreach and try to bring about changes.”

Snacking has become increasingly common among children. In the 1970s, children consumed an average of one snack a day, according to Findholt. Today, they are consuming nearly three snacks a day, and snacking now accounts for about 27 percent of children’s daily calories. Not all snacking is bad, though. Young children should eat small amounts throughout the day to keep up their energy level. The same holds true for active older children.

“Unfortunately, most of the snack foods and beverages that children consume are high in saturated fat, sugar and salt, but low in in nutrients,” Melville said.

Though she is in the earlier stages of measuring the program’s impact, Findholt has already found promising results. Surveys of teachers showed a trend toward healthier snacks as classroom rewards, and their knowledge of nutrition has increased compared to schools in a control group

“We were hoping to see improvements in classroom rewards, but hadn’t anticipated the effect on teachers’ nutrition knowledge,” she said. “It was exciting to see that teachers had learned about nutrition from their students’ advocacy efforts.”

Healthy snacks are promoted by Union County elementary and middle school students in Cove, Elgin, Imbler, North Powder and Union. The program wraps up this summer.

Scott Reed, OSU Division of Outreach and EngagementVideo and photo credit: Jill Wells

Working in partnership with communities is essential to the mission and goals of University Outreach and Engagement. So essential, in fact, that three of the Division’s five strategic goals mention community. A prize awaits the first person to correctly identify and post them in the comments below. But more than that, what are new ways to engage our communities that we should begin planning for in the next legislative biennium? Scott wants your ideas.

Adapted by Ann Marie Murphy

 

cc-graduation
Left to right: OSU President Ed Ray, Umatilla County Commissioner Bill Elfering and Association of Oregon Counties Executive Director Mike McArthur. Photo was taken at the 2013 County College graduation ceremony that took place at the AOC annual conference.

The Oregon State University Extension Service, in partnership with the Association of Oregon Counties (AOC), once again has put together a series of courses to assist Oregon’s commissioners, judges and other elected officials in learning the ins and outs of county government.

County College is a bi-annual continuing education opportunity for county commissioners and other county elected officials. Beginning in 2006, OSU Extension and the Association of Oregon Counties have designed the program to help newly elected and experienced county officials successfully navigate government systems, issues and programs.

Developed at the request of commissioners wanting a comprehensive curriculum dealing with county issues, the course is voluntary and participants receive a certification of completion. The practical outcomes are a better understanding of the responsibilities and legal obligations of elected officials, professional development, increased effectiveness as a leader, and building a network of experts.

County College consists of 18 instructional blocks, each four hours long. At least fifteen blocks must be completed over the course of a year to receive certification. Each session focuses on a different aspect important to the success of county government. Subjects range from the structure of county government, government ethics law, managing and avoiding risks, leadership and management, human services, public safety, county finance and community development to learning about how counties work in partnership with the OSU Extension Service to better serve residents.

The first three-day session will be held at Oregon State University beginning January 19-21. Five additional sessions will to be held throughout the year tentatively scheduled for Salem, Yamhill County and Wasco County.

As reported in the Metro Connection December e-newsletter

 

Dialogue and deliberation during a September 2016 community meeting OSU Extension convened in Corbett, Oregon
Dialogue and deliberation during a September 2016 community meeting OSU Extension convened in Corbett, Oregon, led by Patrick Proden and Stacey Sowders.

Oregon State University Extension staff will play a major role in creating a research-based guide that is intended to help urban communities across the nation address poverty, hunger, social justice issues and homelessness.

 

Patrick Proden, OSU O&E regional administrator for the Metro Region, and Stacey Sowders, 4-H Outreach Coordinator and Multnomah County leader for OSU Extension, will leverage their contribution to the Rural Community Issues Guide by extending their research to urban areas.

 

Population shifts to urban centers

When the Cooperative Extension Service was created, less than 20 percent of the nation’s population lived in urban environments. Now that number exceeds 80 percent, with a resulting increase in complex social and environmental issues such as:

  • Distressed environment
  • Degraded water quality
  • Poor air quality
  • Aging infrastructure
  • Crime
  • Poverty
  • Illiteracy
  • Unemployment
  • Limited food access
  • Unaffordable housing
  • Diverse demographics*

*100 different languages are spoken in one school district in Portland, Oregon

 

Research-based effort

Working in partnership with universities in Alaska, Washington, Colorado, Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio, OSU is leading the research-based effort in the Portland metro area. To gather community information, several methods will be employed: concern gathering sessions, surveys, even knocking on doors for face-to-face conversations. The most pressing and wicked challenges will be identified. As issues are named and framed, a guide will be developed to create additional deliberation and dialogue in communities throughout the states involved.

 

Conducting thorough research, though challenging, is essential to gathering accurate information. Walking through neighborhoods to talk with residents, reaching out to new partners, tapping traditional allies like the Oregon Food Bank, and working closely with arts and humanities organizations and local nonprofits will be utilized to reach a more varied audience.

 

OSU Extension staff will lead discussions to help communities define their problems and figure out what they need to address them. “People know what their burning issues are, but they don’t always know where to go to get the issues addressed,” said Proden. “The planned forums will help communities convene, identify leaders to hear concerns and work to make progress on the issues.” Naming and framing issues in this manner encourages citizen participation and breaks down barriers, turning personal vision into action.

naming-and-framing

 

To dig deep into a community’s challenges, questions asked by moderators during concern gathering sessions include: What concerns you about this issue? Given those concerns, what would you do about it? If that worked to ease your concern, what are the downsides or trade-offs you might then have to accept?

Opportunities for OSU Extension

Not only will the research effort help communities come together to identify common goals, OSU Extension also will identify service gaps where it makes sense to have Extension step in and offer the resources of OSU.

 

While conducting community discussions in September 2016 for the rural guide in Corbett, Oregon, a small town east of Portland where OSU Extension’s work is primarily centered on 4-H, residents indicated they wanted support for urban agriculture focused on markets, small businesses and mediation. With Extension’s considerable expertise in community agriculture, such as Master Gardeners, and personal development offerings such as financial literacy classes, Extension is poised to help the community address their community vitality priorities.

 

The Kettering Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to researching social issues and making democracy accessible to all people, will publish the urban communities issue guide. The Kettering Foundation believes democracy requires a community, or a society of citizens, that can work together. The foundation researches the way citizens face persistent problems in their communities. These problems, such as poverty, violence, and gaps in educational achievement, require citizens, communities, and institutions to work together to address them (source: Kettering Foundation website).

 

“People are disconnected from civic engagement and discourse,” said Proden, “which makes our efforts to engage all communities paramount. It’s all about having conversations which lead to action. At the same time we introduce democracy to people who may never before have had an opportunity to participate.

 

“Extension has an important role to play by helping build a transformative movement, with the goal of shaping new people-centered and community-centered policies  based on the principles of equity and justice.” To learn more about the project, view Urban Communities Re-Imagined, presented by Patrick Proden and Dr. Angela Allan, University of Wisconsin-Extension.

 

Posted on the Progressive Grocer website, December 19, 2016

 

[Editor’s note: Sometimes OSU’s outreach and engagement work impacts a local community, or perhaps the state. In the case of Food Hero, it is impacting the health and well-being of people across the nation, thanks to the work of SNAP-Ed.]

 

The key to low-income family nutrition might just not be building a supermarket in a food desert. The Oregon State University Extension Service launched a social marketing program, Food Hero, in 2009, to encourage healthy eating among low-income Oregonians.

Medical.net reports on two new research studies from Oregon State University. “The success of the program is by far exceeding the scope of what we envisioned when we started,” said Melinda Manore, a professor of nutrition in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at OSU and co-author of the studies. “Getting people to change their diet and eating behavior, especially when they do not have much money, is very difficult, and this program is helping to do that.”

So what are they doing that’s changing behaviors?

One study published in the journal, Nutrients, explains how Food Hero was developed and tested. The goal was to increase fruit and vegetable consumption among those eligible for SNAP benefits in Oregon, with a particular focus on low-income mothers. The strategy includes providing clearly focused messages, writing in plain language, being positive and realistic with the messaging, and offering simple tools for action that include an explanation of what to do and how to do it.

The other study, published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, examines Food Hero’s recipe project. The recipes used in the Food Hero campaign are formulated to be healthy, tasty and kid-friendly. To date, the Food Hero recipes have been accessed millions of times via the website and social media sites such as Pinterest.

Lauren Tobey of the Extension Family and Community Health at OSU, leads the program and explained: “All of the recipes are simple to make and cost-effective for families on tight budgets. Many families can’t afford to have a recipe fail or try an untested recipe the family may not end up liking.”

The recipes have been tested with more than 20,000 children who complete surveys or participate in a vote. If at least 70 percent of participating children say they “like the taste” of a recipe, it is considered “kid-approved.” A little over one-third of the tested recipes have received the “kid-approved” rating to date.

To learn more and/or subscribe to Food Hero Monthly, an electronic magazine that includes recipes and tips, click here.

Food Hero is a collaboration with the Department of Human Services, Department of Education and Oregon Health Authority.

 

 

Written by Ann Marie Murphy

 

seed-to-supper
Photo by Lynn Ketchum

Many OSU Extension programs expand community capacity to help address a critical local or statewide need. A prime example of this is the Seed to Supper program, a partnership between OSU Extension and the Oregon Food Bank.

 

The poverty rate in Oregon – 16.2% – remains above the national average and more than 600,000 Oregonians lived below the poverty line, an official definition that some believe is outdated and underestimates what it takes to truly make ends meet. Personally, I can’t imagine a family of four making ends meet with a household income of $24,230. According to a 2015 Oregon Center for Public Policy fact sheet, poverty is higher than in the 2007–2009 Great Recession. Children and communities of color are more likely to live in poverty.

 

The goal of Seed to Supper is increased food security of low-income audiences by providing training in beginning vegetable gardening. In other words, helping people learn to grow their own food to stretch limited budgets and increase access to healthy, low-cost foods.

 

Seed to Supper is a series of five or six free vegetable gardening classes offered in English and Spanish and taught by Extension-trained Master Gardeners or those with a strong horticultural background. The number of people attending Seed to Supper classes is well on its way to reaching 1,000. Course topics include garden site and soil development, garden planning, planting, garden care, harvesting, and container gardening. Participants learn where to get free and reduced-cost soil, compost, seeds, starts, trellis materials, mulch, tools, garden space and OSU Extension gardening publications.

 

Seed to Supper classes must be offered free of charge to all participants and program guidelines indicate classes should be hosted by community-based agencies that serve primarily a low-income audience.

 

s2s-web-page-banner_2-525x149Started in Linn and Benton counties, the program has expanded around the state and most recently was adopted by Yamhill County. Survey data from the first cohort indicates that 92% reported a reduction in their food bill and an 80% increase in consumption of vegetables. Having developed a garden in a 12-by-12-foot community garden plot, I know how empowering it is – accompanied by a great sense of satisfaction – to create a meal from the fruits (so to speak) of my labor.

 

“I absolutely loved this class! It is such an amazing resource . . . It gave me confidence and know-how to really give a vegetable garden a go for the first time and I plan to continue it.”

 

“Almost every meal has had food from our garden.”

 

“My granddaughter and I now do some gardening together . . .”

 

“[Seed to Supper] gives people a sense of control over their food sources.”

 

Have you grown your own fruits and vegetables?

Written by By Pat Kight and Tiffany Woods

[Editor’s note: This article appears in the Fall/Winter 2016 issue of Confluence, Oregon Sea Grant’s quarterly newsletter.]

Girl Scouts use turkey basters and magnifying lenses to collect and view aquatic insects at Rock Creek near Corvallis. They were learning about the health of the creek through Oregon Sea Grant's StreamWebs program. (Photo by Pat Kight)
Girl Scouts use turkey basters and magnifying lenses to collect and view aquatic insects at Rock Creek near Corvallis. They were learning about the health of the creek through Oregon Sea Grant’s StreamWebs program. (Photo by Pat Kight)

A dozen fourth- and fifth-grade Girl Scouts splash in the shade-dappled shallows of Rock Creek, southwest of Corvallis, trying to scoop up tiny aquatic insects with small dip nets and deposit them into plastic dish tubs.

They’re learning about their watershed—and getting a taste of what it’s like to be a scientist—thanks to Oregon Sea Grant’s StreamWebs program. The statewide program provides educators with field equipment, data sheets, lesson plans and training so they can teach students how to collect data about the health of waterways. It also provides an online database where students can enter and analyze the information they gathered.

“What’s special about StreamWebs is it’s a way for teachers to extend students’ field experience into the classroom,” said the program’s coordinator, Renee O’Neill.

Between August 2014 and July 2015, more than 350 students participated in the program and more than 70 educators were trained on how to use the resources that StreamWebs provides, O’Neill said. During that same period, StreamWebs loaned scientific testing equipment 650 times to educators, she said.

The equipment, contained in plastic totes, can be checked out online and picked up from the Oregon Sea Grant (OSG) office in Corvallis or the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport. Each tote—called a kit—addresses specific learning objectives. There’s a kit with equipment to measure the temperature, pH, turbidity and dissolved oxygen of water. There’s another with measuring tapes, ropes and soil augers so kids can document the vegetation in a designated space and characterize the soil along riparian areas. Tubs of rubber boots and clipboards can even be checked out. Lesson plans and handouts for recording data are available on the StreamWebs website, as are two new videos produced by OSG that show how to use the kits for studying water quality and macroinvertebrates.

The kit the girls at Rock Creek are using is the one for collecting macroinvertebrates, such as caddisflies, mayflies, crayfish, snails and water striders. The girls are being instructed by Guillermo Giannico, a fish ecology and watershed specialist with OSG Extension and a researcher with Oregon State University’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife. They bring their catch to a card table Giannico has propped among the streambank rocks, and use hand lenses and an identification sheet to name what they’ve caught. “I got a stonefly nymph,” one girl exclaims, pointing at the tiny animal’s distinctive tail appendages—and then: “I got another stonefly! I am the queen of stoneflies!”

Once back at a computer, students can upload their findings onto the StreamWebs website so that they and others—including the public—can analyze the health of various watersheds over time. On the website, an interactive map of the state pinpoints where data have been collected. For example, clicking on the pinpoint for D River shows that students at Taft High School in Lincoln City recorded an average pH of 5.9 on Nov. 18, 2014, and 6.76 on May 23, 2016. Site names are also listed alphabetically from Agate Beach to the Zigzag River. Since the program’s inception, 850 people have created accounts on the website, O’Neill said. Between August 2015 and July 2016, about 120 people contributed data, 503 data sheets were uploaded, and 41 new locations were entered, she said.

“The site makes it more like doing real- life science,” said Emmet Whittaker, a science teacher at Lebanon High School who uses StreamWebs in his classroom. “[Students] see how the data can be used over time [and] how they can be shared with other scientists.”

Written by Kevin Leahy for The Daily Astorian, published on November 16, 2016.

[Editor’s note: The outreach and engagement work of OSU Extension Service takes many forms. In this case it’s taking part in a Clatsop County tour showcasing stream restoration and forest best practices for the 26th annual Clatsop Forestry Economic Development Committee leaders tour. This article appeared in The Daily Astorian and features the efforts of Valerie Grant, a new OSU Extension forestry and natural resources faculty.]

Valerie Grant, new Oregon State University Extension forestry and natural resources faculty shares her story as a fourth generation person connected to forestry work.
Valerie Grant, new Oregon State University Extension forestry and natural resources faculty shares her story as a fourth generation person connected to forestry work. Photo: George Vetter for The Daily Astorian.

More than 100 attendees braved the elements for the 26th annual Clatsop Forestry Economic Development Committee leaders tour this year, including state Rep. Deborah Boone.

The day started out bright and early with an introduction by committee Chairman Kevin Leahy at the Barbey Maritime Center, reinforcing that this sector continues to be 30 percent of our Clatsop County economy, and is 12 percent of our county employment. Leahy also noted that $23,500,000 was distributed from Oregon Department of Forestry to Clatsop County in 2016 from timber harvests that support schools, law enforcement, Clatsop Community College, roads, and more.

Forestry tour participants look through a fish habitat and stream enhancement project.
Forestry tour participants look through a fish habitat and stream enhancement project. Photo: George Vetter for The Daily Astorian

From there the group was transported by bus to the Walooski Fish Stream Enhancement Collaborative Project, where Tom Clark from Lewis & Clark Timber/Greenwood Resources, Brook Stanley from the North Coast Watershed Association, Troy Laws from Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Jeff Van Osdol from Big River Construction shared the public/private partnership success that included a fish habitat and stream enhancement project, and invited all the attendees to walk down the stairs and across the wood bridge specifically built for the Leaders Tour for an “up close and personal” walk through the culvert where salmon are swimming through for the first time.

Next, the two full school buses headed to the Clatsop Ridge Logging Operation & Reforestation to hear about the “active harvest operation” project from speakers Mark Gustafson, owner of Gustafson Logging, and Sam Sadler of Lewis & Clark Timber and Greenwood Resources.

A box lunch was paid for by the employer members of the Clatsop Forestry Economic Development Committee and was provided to all attendees. Presentations were given at the Netul Landing, Lewis and Clark National Historical Park. Interim park Superintendent Marcus Koenen and rogram specialist Carla Cole presented project updates on the park properties on both sides of the Columbia River.

Forestry committee member Valerie Grant, Oregon State University Extension’s new forester, shared her background and priorities within the three-county area that she covers [emphasis added].

State Rep. Deborah Boone, center, and others view a demonstration of logging techniques and best practices.
State Rep. Deborah Boone, center, and others view a demonstration of logging techniques and best practices. Photo: George Vetter for The Daily Astorian

Participants were asked to share reflections on this tour and past ones. It was mentioned that the forestry tour was under way Sept. 11, 2001, and the lifelong memory of where you were when 9/11 happened will always be with them.

And Sara Meyer, a longtime tour participant and member of the local American Association of University Women chapter choked up when she said it was so exciting to see so many women in this traditionally male-dominated field.

Column author Kevin Leahy is the executive director of Clatsop Economic Development Resources.