Oklahoma County Extension Office receives award of excellence
Monday, January 25, 2021
The Oklahoma County Extension office’s 2020 educational efforts to showcase the importance of water conservation received one of the premier awards given annually in January by Oklahoma State University Extension.
Educators Joshua Campbell, Julia Laughlin, Cody Yount, Mindy McNeil and LaDonna Hines received the 2021 OSU Extension Outstanding Faculty and Field Staff Program Team Award. The honor recognized their development and delivery of innovative programs to adult and youth audiences, despite challenges presented by COVID-19 shutdowns.
Examples of their educational programs include helping residents and civic organizations employ:
- Water-smart landscapes suitable for central Oklahoma, incorporating the use of rain barrels and design alternatives.
- Research-based irrigation and watering techniques that are cost-effective and reduce waste.
- Soil-sampling techniques that take the guesswork out of what nutrients are needed in yards and other landscapes.
- Easy-to-do mulching practices.
- Plant selection that promotes water conservation and maximizes plant health across a range of conditions including perpetual shade, persistent sun and runoff-producing slopes.
Campbell and Laughlin developed and conducted 10 water conservation workshops that reached more than 800 participants. Most of the workshops were conducted in person using approved social distancing safeguards. The coronavirus pandemic also led the team to offer several of the workshops using a hybrid in-person and electronic media communications.
“We learned that we can reach more people by offering virtual classes, so from this point on, we will be conducting all our programs in this hybrid manner,” Hines said. “We made extensive use of the teaching gardens and irrigation systems at the county office, which are designed to give visitors a firsthand look at many of the concepts being shared.”
The team further extended their water conservation educational efforts by offering information at local farmer’s markets and plant nurseries. Laughlin worked closely with OSU Extension Master Gardeners, who assisted about 650 residents and handed out more than 700 fact sheets. Laughlin and Campbell trained 15 employees at a local nursery and garden center on how to help customers choose plants.
Hines credited Oklahoma County Extension Program Assistant Diana Sansing with helping team members produce all the educational efforts.
Oklahoma County Junior Master Gardeners provided research-based water conservation curricula to eight Oklahoma City schools, reaching 460 students. Yount and McNeil also offered after-school programs employing aspects of the Oklahoma 4H2O Youth Water Education Program and the EnviroScape display to create a hands-on learning environment. Additional youth educational workshops included Plant-It-Earth and Project Camp. The students participated in a water conservation poster contest at the camps, which was judged by municipal staff from Oklahoma City Water Utilities, with the winner and runner-up featured on KOKH Fox 25’s Living Oklahoma segment.
“It is our hope that this type of multifaceted educational programming can serve as a model for professionals at public and private agencies, including our Extension colleagues across the state,” Hines said. “The concepts we employed are useful not only for overcoming challenges during a pandemic, but in enhancing the educational experience for participants even in more normal times.”
OSU Extension is one of two state agencies administered by the university’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources and is a key part of OSU’s state and federally mandated teaching, research and Extension land-grant mission.