Volunteer-Led Investigations in Neighborhood Ecology (VINE) is a national network of urban environmental education programs. Trained volunteers provide children with opportunities to discover the natural world in their everyday, neighborhood environment. This is done through hands-on, natural science investigations of plants, animals and ecological relationships.
Five evaluation studies were conducted between the years of 1986 and 1996 to answer questions such as “Who are we reaching?”, “Is the program being implemented as intended?”, “How has the program been adapted? Does it ‘work’ in each of its configurations?”, and “What is the program’s impact on participating students?” A variety of evaluation methods were administered over this period. These evaluations collected data from volunteers, teachers or informal educators, students, and parents.
A professional development program, the VINE Follow-Through Project, was later added to expand on the original VINE program by providing teachers with the resources they need to connect what the students learn from their VINE experience to what they are learning in the classroom. This program was also evaluated with the question “Do VINE Follow-Through teachers change their classroom practice?” with the objective of determining whether teachers who participate in the project use more constructivist teaching techniques in their classrooms.
Evaluation results were used to demonstrate the value of the VINE program to funders and sponsoring organizations and institutions, and to identify areas of strength and weakness. The results were disseminated through publications and conferences to inform the field of environmental education about successful program evaluation techniques.