This week, we performed one more interview over the phone, analyzed the interview from the previous week, and came up with a plan for the next few weeks. We also were able to compensate for last week by finishing the Instagram writeup for our social media package.
On Monday, we conducted a phone interview with Ms. Thwaite, a middle school teacher in Menlo Park. Ms. Thwaite talked to us about her experience with the challenge and some of her concerns moving forward. One thing she mentioned was that she was unsure of the long term effects that the challenge had on the students. While they were motivated by prizes, she suggested that the kids probably would not continue “green actions” unless they felt emotionally connected to and moved by the plight of climate change.
Another good piece of feedback that we were given was that it was pretty difficult to fit the challenge into the core curriculum. Her students had an ecology section where they watched An Inconvenient Truth, but it was difficult to motivate students outside of that particular section. One particularly useful suggestion was to look at each grade’s core requirements individually and come up with lesson plans that could be implemented for all three middle school grades at the same time. This would bolster the program and allow for more friendly competition and education amongst students.
Like Mr. Powell, Ms. Thwaite emphasized that getting recognition for actions was a rewarding prize for kids. In addition, Ms. Thwaite continued to bring up the need for more internal motivation from the students. While prizes were fun, they did not necessarily result in long term behavioral change. Thus, we brainstormed together some ideas to get kids more motivated about climate change in general. One idea was to watch videos that motivated kids to do projects for their school. One year, students realized after watching a video on waste, that the paper trays used for lunch were incredibly wasteful and launched a campaign to lower the use of paper trays at their school dramatically. So, in essence, giving students the agency to decide how they will act and how they will make take action is very empowering and lead to a significant action. This is information we hope to use in developing our student project package.
Through our Instagram social media research, we found two successful profiles related to environmental consciousness (Charity Water and General Electric) and analyzed their feed aesthetic and content to provide examples of Instagram engagement for Menlo Spark.
A portion of our research related to feed appearance and photo quality. According to a study by Curalate, blue photos or photos with a higher proportion of background received more likes than reddish or multicolor photos. Photos that are more well lit and have a higher proportion of background space are also more favorable. We found all these techniques employed in both Charity Water and General Electric’s feeds.
Instagram allows up to 2,200 characters per caption, or about 400 words total - however, shorter captions that have very clear intent and impact are more effective than longer ones. For example, Charity Water’s captions are extremely concise, corresponds with the images and showcases examples of how their cause affects individuals in developing countries. General Electric’s captions tend to be longer, which is perfectly acceptable as long as each sentence is written with intention and the captions are not too verbose or utilize complicated sentence structure and vocabulary.
We then applied these principles to Menlo Spark’s current Instagram page and provided suggestions. Their feed is very white because the majority of the pictures are screenshots, meaning that they blend into Instagram’s white background and also blend into each other. This creates a lack of contrast and visual interest between images, and it is highly recommended that the posts do not have a white background in order to bring color into the feed. Many of their posts consist of pie graphs and charts, rather than showcasing an image related to the information (i.e. a picture of someone driving their car for a transportation emission statistic). Too much text in the images themselves detracts from the feed’s appearance, and because it is unlikely that users will want to analyze a pie chart and have to draw their own conclusions, they will skip over the post instead.
Moving forward, we plan to use the information from both interviews to complete our student package and campaign strategy over the next two weeks. We are doing well on the social media and website suggestions, but will continue to work on integrating the green challenge into the core curriculum of various grade levels, creating lesson plans, and ways for students to be more engaged.