The 2014 Muddy Boots season has now finished. We ended with a celebration session during which we planted bulbs to see flower next year and ate a shared lunch. We also carried out some feedback and appreciation activities. I created a photo book using images taken throughout the year to show the group. This was handed round and participants were invited to add their comments on the back-cover.
I was so touched by the wonderful comments. This is one of my favourites;
“ Muddy Boots is a huge ray of sunshine in our lives. We look forward to every session. There is so much to learn, so much to share and a lovely sense of community and sharing. I don’t know what we would do without this group”
If participants had not completed the mid-point evaluation form, then I did ask them to complete one at the last session. I collected 17 forms in total and have collated the findings.
Where did you hear about the group? Emily, a friend, the FB page or the LNM FB page
Why did the group appeal to you? location, time, ethos, values, natural outdoor play, to learn about gardening, to spend time outdoors and healthy shared snack time.
What do you/your child get out of the group? spending time together, learning about growing food, meeting like-minded parents, being outdoors, a sense of community, a relaxed atmosphere, seeing friends, learning through play, having new experiences, freedom to get dirty, space to explore, learning skills and pride in food growing, being creative, learning to care for nature. ( It was great to see so many of my key function for the group echoed in people’s experiences of attending the group)
Have you been able to help out and if so, how did you feel about being asked to do so? 8 No, 7 tea duty/ washing up, 5 pack/set up, 7 session leading. 7 happy to help out, 6 willing to help in future, 4 unable to help due to children.
Do you think the group is good value for money? All 17 said yes
Would you be wiling to pay more, how much seems fair? 1 person said £2.50, 5 said £3.00 6 said £4.00 4 said £5.00 and 1 said £5.00+
Would you be willing to travel to a different site? Is so, how far? 1 person said don’t move, 1 person said I have no transport, 1 person said yes, less than 5 miles, 7 people said around 5 miles, 1 person said more than 5 miles and 6 people were happy to follow us where ever we moved to.
Should I put a cap on numbers of families attending? 5 said no cap, 4 said cap at 10, 5 said cap at 15, 1 said cap at 20.
What have been your favourite things about Muddy Boots? Activities, planting. being outdoors, watching children play, the sandpit, growing food, meeting people, the relaxed atmosphere, the good vibes, exploring the site, learning about Permaculture.
What haven’t you liked/ what changes can you suggest? It has been too busy on occasion, need a bigger space, have a longer session, have proper mugs for tea rather than the plastic glasses, continue all year round.
What activities should I run in the future? Natural crafting, digging, nature art, mini gardens, treasure hunts, planting, songs, water/ mud play, plant identification, longer sessions, more time for free play, harvesting, stories, exploring, keeping chickens, making fires, making shelters Caterpillar/butterfly keeping, nature lanterns, nature bracelets, leaf rubbings, pumpkin carving, seasonal celebrations, mud kitchen, cooking and eating.
SO IN CONCLUSION…. people enjoy the ethos of the group, the activities and ideas behind it. They want a longer session, they are happy to move but not too far, they are happy to pay more- maybe £4-5 each session.
I have looked back at the 8 key functions I identified for Muddy Boots in the planning stages and reflected on how successfully they were achieved.
|KEY FUNCTION||WAS THIS FUNCTION ACHIEVED?||EVIDENCE||NOTES|
|To teach children about food growing||I think I started to introduce ideas around this subject||We planted the following; runner beans, strawberries, sunflowers, peas, courgettes, beetroot, radishes, tomatoes, peppers and herbs plus flowers and bulbs.
We harvested; much of the above list plus, cucumbers, grapes, blackberries and lettuces
|The key function needed to be more specific – too general.|
|To inspire a love of nature and art||Yes – but I do think that only parents and children who already have these interests were the people who were likely to attend this group.||Art– we tried willow weaving, potato printing, hand printing, colouring in sheets, we made a beanstalk sculpture, we created food faces, we sang songs and played with instruments.
Nature – we planted seeds and bulbs, we made bird-feeders, we went on a bug hunt, we celebrated finds from the natural world each week, we played with pinecones, sand, mud and water, we learnt about animals and insects.
“Playing outdoors, getting muddy, being creative, freedom to get dirty” – we quoted as being things the attending child enjoyed most in the feedback forms.
|This is really two key functions not one.|
|To be a safe and welcoming environment for parents and their pre-school age children||Yes||Safe– No accidents or injuries reported other than the normal slips and falls. One child fell off a chair once.
Welcoming– I had lots of written and verbal comments about how welcoming and friendly the group felt.
|Again this is 2 key functions really.|
|To be a place for like-minded parents to meet and forge new friendships and networks||Yes||I have looked at the register and noted the following;
16 people came to only 1 session – This is a big drop off but some of these people were grandparents attending with regulars, friends from out-of-town, but also some people who just decided it was not for them.
On average we had 27 people per session – 12 adults and 16 kids.
The best attendee came 11 times out of 14
Of the top 10 attenders, the average number of sessions attended was 6 times out of 14. There was a core of 12 families who attended regularly and lots of others who dropped in and out throughout the season.
Some new friendships were forged and others re-inforced by the group. The link to LNM FB group was important, as was the formation of the MBAP FB group.
Quote from the end of season evaluation “ Muddy Boots is a huge ray of sunshine in our lives. We look forward to every session. There is so much to learn, so much to share and a lovely sence of community and sharing. I don’t know what we would do without this group”
|but will these friendships and networks endure once the group ends? How can I help with that?|
|To keep the education space of the community allotment looking good. (I designed this space for my PDC design project in 2012)||Not really||There was not time factored into the sessions for general site maintainance. We did however add some lovely features like the pizza pots, tin can flowerpot and sunflowers. I had to spend extra time at the allotment to keep it looking ok and the com allot people mowed the grass etc.||Positive aspect of using the com allot- is there are lots of other people to help with site upkeep. Negative aspect is I don;t feel ownership over the space.|
|To be a learning opportunity for myself, possibly leading onto an income generation project in future years||Yes and maybe||It has been a great learning opportunity and running it alongside a P design project has really helped. Yes there is a possibility of generating income from this in future years.||Needs lots more thought and planning.|
|To be a community run group that uses and values the individual skills of the participants||Yes||I think this key function was met very well. I had lots of help for the more mundane jobs like setting up/ packing up/ tea duty but also six people ran sessions. There skills like music, art, baby signing and guitar playing were used and appreciated.||How do I keep this community feeling while exploring the income generation potential?|
|For families to enjoy playing and learning together outdoors||Yes||Lots of positive comments along these lines in the feedback and evaluation activities.|
A further form of feedback I have received is the post-it-note comments I gathered from the other participants on the PDC when I gave my 5 minute presentation about my design for Muddy Boots.
And finally I just want to share my sheet for keeping a record of who is leading each session and the topics covered. This tiny bit of design worked really well, giving flexibility in the planning and in encouraging people to sign up for jobs where they saw gaps. The sheet was A1 size and displayed on the shed during each session.
Evaluate progress… What is the current situation? What is going well? What is challenging? L.Macnamara People and Permaculture 2012
I am writing this with two more sessions of Muddy Boots to run before we stop for the Winter. I have been reflecting on how the design has worked all the way through the process really. It is a natural human response to look back over what has happened in your life and ponder. In order to make my reflections useful to me, I have formalised this pondering process and carried out lots of reflective activities for Muddy Boots.
1. I have kept a reflective journal. Immediately after each session I made notes about the following points; how many people attended the session, what the theme was, a brief description of activity, who led the activity, what the weather was like and how much I enjoyed the session. I tried to be honest in this and I have found it a revealing process. In summary, the sessions where I was well supported felt great, positive, inspiring and worthwhile. The few sessions were I felt I was battling through on my own, felt unfulfilling, hard work and unenjoyable. An easy lesson to learn there about working with others.
2. I have used The four questions a number of times when thinking about Muddy Boots. I have discussed the design during guilds and I have used the questions on my own. Especially at times when I am feeling stuck or troubled, I find it helps to settle my thoughts and see a way forward if I write down my responses to the four questions. ‘What is going well?’ ‘What are you finding difficult?’ ‘What are your long terms plans and visions?’ and ‘What are your next actievable steps?’
3. After the 7th session, I began doing Midpoint evaluations. I asked the group participants to complete a short questionnaire about where they found out about the group, what they enjoyed, why they came along, what changes they would like to see etc. This provided me with useful feedback, some of which led to immediate changes within the group like swapping squash for water and continuing to run sessions even if it rains.
4. At the final session on October 31st I will be doing Final evaluations. I need to spend some time thinking about what format this will take. I don’t want to do another written questionnaire really, so we may do a brainstorm activity. I would also like to give participant’s who may not be at the final session for one reason or another a chance to give me feedback. So I will welcome this via emails or the Facebook page. Again I need to consider exactly how this will work.
5. The four types of reflection listed above will feed into my reflections and resulting tweaks to the design. I hope to run Muddy Boots again next spring and summer but making some changes to how the group runs and hopefully proving me some payment for the hours I put in. So this design is very much ongoing and is hopefully the start of something much bigger for my future career path. Watch this space!