Why Garden at School? Cornelia Harris, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies


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Part of THV's July 2014 institute, "Farms & Food: Teaching the Hudson Valley from the Ground Up." From a full-day field experience, "Our Ecosystem, Our Health: Exploring the Benefits of School & Community Gardens," in Poughkeepsie, NY. Particpiants visited gardens at Krieger ES, Poughkeepsie HS, and the Poughkeepsie Farm Project with Cornelia Harris, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, and Jamie Levato, education coordinator for the Poughkeepsie Farm Project.

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  • Numerous studies have been conducted on the benefits of gardening with students. The following are just a few examples.
  • Additional benefits of gardening in schools…
  • Horticulture is a profession deeply rooted in community involvement and activity-based learning, both of which are key elements to the development of children. McCormick reports that students tend to learn more and better when they are actively involved in the learning process. (McCormick, F., D. Cox, and G. Miller. (1989). Experiential Needs of Students in Agriculture Programs. The Agriculture Education Magazine. 62(4): 11-12,23.)
    Experiential learning is a learning theory first described by Kolb, 1975.
  • Coffey, 2001. Transforming School Grounds, in Greening School Grounds.
    Kellert, 2002. Experiencing Nature: Affective, Cognitive, and Evaluative Development, in Children and Nature: Psychological, Sociocultural, and Evolutionary Investigations. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
    Kuo, F. E. 2001. Coping with Poverty: Impacts of Environment and Attention in the Inner City. Environment and Behavior, vol 33, no 1, p5-34.
    Louv, Richard. 2008. Last Child in the Woods.
    Moore, R. 1996. Compact Nature: The Role of Playing and Learning Gardens on Children's Lives, Journal of Therapeutic Horticulture, 8, 72-82.
    Pyle, 2002. Eden in a vacant lot. Children & Nature.  
    Taylor, A.F., Kuo F.E, and W. C. Sullivan. 2001. Coping with ADD: The Surprising Connection to Green Play Settings, Environment and Behavior, vol 33, p54-77.
     Taylor, A.F., Kuo F.E, and W. C. Sullivan. 2002. View of Nature and Self-Discipline: Evidence from Inner City Children. Journal of Environmental Psychology, vol. 22, 49-63.
     Taylor, A.F. & F.E. Kuo. 2009. Children with Attention Deficits Concentrate Better After Walk in the Park. Journal of Attention Disorders, vol. 12, p402-409.
    Tennessen, C.M., & B. Cimprich. 1995. Views to Nature: Effects on Attention. Journal of Environmental Psychology, vol. 16.
    White, R. 2004. Young children’s relationship with nature. Taproot, Fall/Winter.
  • Other review articles:
    Blair, D. (2009). The child in the garden: An evaluative review of the benefits of school gardening. Journal of Environmental Education, 40(2), 15–38. doi:10.3200/JOEE.40.2.15-38
    Dillon, J., Rickinson, M., Sanders, D., Tearney, K., & Benefield, P. (2003). Improving the understanding of food, farming and land management amongst school-age children: A literature review. London: National Foundation for Educational Research and King’s College.
    Ozer, E. (2006). The effects of school gardens on students and schools: Conceptualizations and considerations for maximizing healthy development. Health Education and Behavior, 34, 846–863. doi:10.1177/1090198106289002
  • Williams, D. & P.S. Dixon. 2013. Synthesis of Research Between 1990-2010: Impact of Garden-Based Learning on Academic Outcomes in Schools. Review of Educational Research, 83: 211
    Only articles were reviewed that included: (a) There was garden based curriculum, (b) academic outcomes were measured, (c) exposure consisted of a minimum of an hour at least every 2 weeks, (d) there was connection with schools, and (e) assessment measures were specific to the age group being studied.
  • Lohr, V.I. & Pearson-Mims, C.H. (2005). Children's Active and Passive Interactions with Plants Influence Their Attitudes and Actions toward Trees and Gardening as Adults. HortTechnology. 15(3): 472-476.
    Klemmer, C.D., Waliczek, T.M. & Zajicek, J.M. (2005). Growing Minds: The Effect of a School Gardening Program on the Science Achievement of Elementary Students. HortTechnology. 15(3): 448-452.)
    McArthur, J., Hill, W., Trammel, G., & Morris, C. (2010). Gardening with youth as a means of developing science, work and life skills. Children, Youth and Environments, 20, 301–317.
  • Themes: Geometry, algebraic equations, probabilities, data analysis, measurement. However there are no studies that ONLY looked at math; math was a component of other studies.
  • Results of formal pre- and post-tests of achievement (Peabody Individual Achievement Test), self-esteem (Coopersmith Self-Esteem Inventory), and attitudes toward school (School Attitude Measure) indicated greater gains in all three areas than control classes made.
    Sheffield, B. K. (1992). The affective and cognitive effects of an interdisciplinary garden-based curriculum on underachieving elementary students (Doctoral dissertation). Available from Proquest UMI Dissertation Publishing database. (Proquest No. 9224935)
  • Bowles, Beatrice. 1995. Celebrating Common Ground: Storytelling in Children's Gardens. Children's Environments, 12(2): 271-274.
  • Heffernan, M. (1994). The children’s garden project at River Farm, Children’s Environments ll (3): 221-231
  • Elementary school and junior high school students gained more positive attitudes about environmental issues after participating in a school garden program (Waliczek, T.M., Zajicek, J.M. (1999). School Gardening: Improving Environmental Attitudes of Children Through Hands-On Learning. Journal of Environ. Hort. 17(4): 180-184.)
    Gardening has been shown to increase scores on environmental attitude surveys of elementary school children. (Skelly, S. & J. Zajicek. (1998). The Effect of an Interdisciplinary Garden Program on the Environmental Attitudes of Elementary School Students. Hort Technology, 8(4): 579-583.)
    "Gardens are often the most accessible places for children to learn about nature's beauty, interconnections, power, fragility, and solace." (Heffernan, M. (1994). The Children's Garden Project at River Farm. Children's Environments. 11(3): 221-231.)
  • Pothukuchi, K. (2004). Hortaliza: A youth ‘nutrition garden’ in southwest Detroit. Children, Youth and Environments 14 (2): 124-155.
    Lineberger, S. (1999). The Effect of School Gardens on Children's Attitudes and Related Behaviors Regarding Fruits and Vegetables. Thesis, Texas A&M University.)
    (Heimendinger, J. & M. Van Duyn. (1995). Dietary behavior change: the challenge of recasting the role of fruit and vegetables in the American diet. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 61:1397S-1401S. and Crockett, S.J., & L. Sims. (1995). Environmental Influences on Children's Eating. Journal of Nutrition Education. 27: 235-249.)
    Canaris, Irene. (1995). Growing Foods for Growing Minds: Integrating Gardening and Nutrition Education into the Total Curriculum. Children's Environments, 12(2): 264-270.
  • Thorp, L., & Townsend, C. (2001, December 12). Agricultural education in an elementary school: An ethnographic study
    of a school garden. Proceedings of the 28th Annual National Agricultural Education Research Conference in New Orleans,
    LA (pp. 347–360). Retrieved from http://www.aaaeonline.org/conference_files/758901
    Rahm, J. (2002). Emergent learning opportunities in an inner-city youth gardening program. Journal of Research in Science
    Teaching, 39, 164–184.
  • Alexander, J. & D. Hendren, (1998). Bexar County Master Gardener Classroom Garden Research Project: Final Report. San Antonio, Texas.
    Waliczek, T. & J. Zajicek. (1998). The Effect of a School Garden Program on Self-Esteem and Interpersonal Relationships of Children and Adolescents. Hort Technology (submitted).
  • Sarver, M. (1985).Agritherapy: Plants as Learning Partners. Academic Therapy, 20(4). 389-396.
    Students in a one-year school gardening program increased their overall life skills by 1.5 points compared to a group of students that did not participate in the school gardening program. (Robinson, C.W. & Zajicek, J.M. (2005). HortTechnology. 15(3): 453-457.)
  • Eames-Sheavly, M. (1994). "Exploring Horticulture in Human Culture: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Youth Education." HortTechnology 4(1): 77-80.
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