Junior Master Gardener? Programs in Rural Guatemala: A Model for International Youth Development Programs
Mcgucken, Anna Mae
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This study examined the impact of selected Junior Master Gardeners (JMG) lessons on students? science knowledge gain, science attitudes, and life skill development. During summer 2013, sixth grade students (N = 84) and teachers (N = 11) from two rural schools in Guatemala participated in six weeks of JMG lessons. Students completed pre-and post- science knowledge tests, and pre-and post- science attitude and life skills surveys. Teachers completed surveys to evaluate their perceptions of JMG lessons and perceived impacts those lessons had on students? science learning and attitudes, and development of life skills. Results showed that students? science knowledge significantly increased as a result of their participation in JMG lessons. No change in attitude toward science was observed in the student data; however, data from teachers? surveys indicated that teachers perceived JMG lessons were important in stimulating students? desires to learn science and in increasing students? interests in science. No significant change in students? perceptions of life skills development was observed; data from teachers? surveys indicated they perceived JMG lessons were important in helping students develop life skills such as communications and leadership. The lack of significant change in students? science attitudes and life skills development may be attributed to low internal reliability scores for both scales. Many previous studies conducted in the U.S. indicate that participation in 4-H, JMG, and other agricultural education activities facilitates changes in attitudes toward science and life skill development. Future studies should address instrument reliability issues to improve research in this field or rely more heavily on teacher evaluation of JMG programs since research suggests that adults are better able to assess changes in attitudes and skills than youth. Overall, this study suggests that there is great potential for the use of JMG programs in developing countries. Because of their impact on science education, science attitude, and life skills development, JMG programs should be accepted as viable tools for international development projects working toward a stronger, more educated, and more capable youth population in developing countries. Both science knowledge and life skills development are closely tied with economic prosperity and successful livelihoods so by giving youth these skills, JMG is preparing them for a better future. Before incorporating JMG into development projects, more time should be invested in adapting JMG lessons and activities to a rural Guatemalan context to maximize learning and ease of adoption.