Best Practices for Field Days E-Tips for Environmental Educators
Welcome to this edition of the EE E-Tip for Field Days - the quarterly source for practical tips to raise the impact of field day programs. We want to hear your suggestions for improving this resource. Send your ideas to Nate Meyer.
EE E-TIP: Include essential elements in your presentations
It is a great feeling to make an outstanding presentation that holds your learners' attention, totally engages them, energizes and sends them away smiling, thinking, feeling confident in understanding something new. But what does an outstanding presentation look like? Depending on your theme, situation and personal style, an outstanding presentation can look a million different ways. Yet, all outstanding presentations welcome your learners, they foreshadow the ideas and skills you will teach, keep everyone engaged, and make real-world sense. All outstanding presentations include a few essential elements.
In over six-years of delivering workshops on the Best Practices for Field Days, one of our most common participant questions is "What does a great presentation look like?" This is, in many ways, a hard question to answer because every presentation and every water festival and field day presenter is different. Like artists, you each paint your presentations with unique brush strokes, on different canvases, with your own preferred colors. But the science and practice of delivering education presentations provides us a general template for success. Outstanding presentations should encompass:
- An introduction that maps the learning landscape/sparks interest
- Appropriate content
- Being visible for participants
- Activities that engage all learners
- A variety of useful questions
- A conclusion that helps learners make connections and keep growing
University of Minnesota Extension Educator, Stephan Carlson has helped us define these essential elements by developing an Evaluation Tool for Assessing Environmental Field Days. He led a team of experts and practitioners from across the country in creating a tool that can be used to observe the quality of short interpretive presentations for elementary and middle school students attending Environmental/Outdoor Education Field Days.
In workshops where we have trained others like you to evaluate field days using the tool, we have learned that our participants really like this list to help them think about the important elements of their presentations. When it is time to deliver your next presentation, try using the following list to make sure you are including the essential elements:
Important Elements to Include in Your Presentations
Near the Beginning of Your Presentation, You...
- Welcome participants positively
- Introduce yourself clearly
- State clearly what will happen during your presentation
- Seek to reveal participants' knowledge
- Provide a clear advance organizer - a way of making sense of the information and ideas you will present to your learners
Throughout Your Presentation, You...
- Give equal attention to all participants
- Keep nearly all participants focused on activities most of the time
- Use appropriate language (clearly defining new terms when necessary)
- Present content information appropriate for participants' knowledge and ability
- Provide clear instructions
- Demonstrate enthusiastic/engaging behavior
- Make sure you are seen and heard by all participants nearly all the time
- Allow participants to influence the direction of the learning experience
When Asking Questions, You...
- Use questions that allow participants to voice what they already knew or just learned (i.e., recall questions)
- Use questions that challenge participants to apply knowledge to new situations and/or make them think critically about an issue
- Give participants sufficient time to answer questions themselves before providing an answer
By The End of Your Presentation, You...
- Summarize what happened during your presentation
- Explain how your presentation connects to the main message that you are planning to communicate to your participants
- Connect your presentation to other related things that your participants have/will experience and learn
- Describe the relationship between your presentation learning objectives and the lives of participants
Again, it is important to keep in mind that every presentation is different - a unique combination of presenter style, situation and theme. By following this checklist, however, you can improve how your presentations reflect the science and practice of good field day and water festival presentations.
For more information on using effective teaching methods for field day presentations, review the Use Experiential Teaching Methods section of the Best Practices for Field Days: A Program Planning Guidebook for Organizers, Presenters, Teachers and Volunteers - pages 61 to 73. Curriculum copies, workshop and other information are available online at http://www.extension.umn.edu/FieldDays.
Use the new Best Practices for Field Days Events Calendar to promote your field days and festivals, connect with presenters and volunteers. Learn more about the calendar and get started at http://www.extension.umn.edu/FieldDays/Calendar/.
Learn more about evaluating field days and water festivals with the Best Practices for Field Days Observation Assessment Tool online at http://www.extension.umn.edu/FieldDays/evaltool.html.
To learn more about the Best Practices for Field Days, read our short article in the online Journal of Extension http://www.joe.org/joe/2004october/tt4.shtml.
Best Practices for Field Days is a University of Minnesota Extension program. The information given in this publication is for educational purposes only. Reference to commercial products or trade names is made with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by the University of Minnesota Extension is implied.