Our group of Extension professionals and educators from the University of Connecticut (UConn) pursued this project to increase consumers’ understanding of these three food marketing labels and empower people to make more informed food buying decisions. We curated a range of science-based resources and collaborated with the Learning Games Laboratory at New Mexico State University (NMSU) to develop an interactive online learning activity (or game), “Unpeeled: The Case Files of Maya McCluen.” This eFieldbook documents our team’s history; details how we developed, tested, and deployed our project; and shares a trove of research about food labels, particularly about perceptions and knowledge of GMOs. We hope our project inspires other Extension teams to create or enhance their outreach education programs.
Part 1: History of Our Team
In 2017, we created a working group — which several members of the New Technologies for Agricultural Extension (NTAE) team were then and are currently involved with — to focus on outreach education about GMOs. We created a website, some social media posts, a fact card, and other material. The NTAE project has
allowed us to expand our offering to include the “ non-GMO, ” “ organic, ” and “ natural ” food marketing label. We wanted to develop further our messaging about food labels and find new ways to connect with our audiences. Several of our team members had worked with NMSU’s Learning Games Laboratory on a
Social media post created by original GMO working group
USDA AFRI grant-funded gamification project. They suggested we talk to the lab about how we could use gamification — applying game-based strategies to educate people about a topic — as an educational outreach tool. We decided to explore this strategy and applied for the NTAE grant through the Extension Foundation to support our idea. After NTAE selected our project for grant funding, we added team members from the UConn Extension Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) to our GMO working group and collaborated with our NTAE catalysts and our partners at the NMSU lab to create a gamification plan. Our team worked with the leadership development services offered by the Extension Foundation to develop a stronger team founded on the principles of Project Aristotle. These include psychological safety, dependability, structure and clarity, meaning, and impact. We regularly scheduled leadership development opportunities to continue our team building, in addition to completing our project. After our conversations with the NTAE catalysts and the NMSU Learning Games Lab, we broadened our scope to include educating consumers about “natural” and “organic” food labels in addition to the “non - GMO” label. Focusing just on GMOs might have unintentionally led our audience to believe that PODCAST Connect Extension Podcast Background on our project and team development
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