The National Garden Association released a variety of reports about the benefits of working in the garden. According to a Texas study, third, fourth, and fifth grade students who participated in a youth gardening program scored significantly higher on science achievement tests compared to students that did not experience any garden-based learning activities. South Carolina teachers have studied third and fourth grade summer school students and found that those working in the gardening program made significant, measurable gains in reading, reading comprehension, spelling, and written expression. Gardening has also been shown to foster life skills such as cooperation, leadership, and responsibility.
The State Education and Environment Roundtable has done an extensive national study that demonstrated that outdoor environmental education activities (including gardens) can significantly improve environmental literacy while also improving overall academic performance. There is an increasing body of knowledge that indicates that children who participate in a well-structured school garden will improve academic performance. The National Association of Science Teachers frequently showcases garden related strategies as ways to improve a student’s knowledge and skill in science. A recent publication from the American Society for Horticulture Science highlights a number of studies that demonstrate the power of gardens to enrich the curriculum, especially in science.
The Importance of Children’s Interaction with Nature:
Children with views of and contact with nature score higher on tests of concentration and self-discipline. The greener, the better the scores. (Wells 2000, Taylor 2002) A sense of responsibility and accomplishment is developed in children due to gardening, which further enables them to learn about the importance of native plants and wildlife habitat. Education experts say that having children step away from reading, writing, and arithmetic momentarily and dig their fingers into garden soil can be an unorthodox but effective way to improve student performance and enrich an academic curriculum.
School gardens are a rapidly developing aspect of community and urban gardening. In outdoor classrooms students find more enjoyment in learning, thus attention difficulties and behavior problems are reduced. Emotional growth and social skills are enhanced when students observe the processes of nature at work and are given the responsibility for the care of plants. Children’s gardening has many benefits like developing math skills by counting seeds, practicing motor skills through digging and planting, and learning about flowers, herbs and vegetables. Studies in Bexar County, Texas, showed that school gardening increased participants’ self-esteem, helped them develop a sense of ownership and responsibility, fostered stronger relationships among family members, and increased parent involvement. School Gardens offer an effective means of implementing an interdisciplinary, standards-based instructional strategy that uses hands on learning to improve educational outcomes.
Gardening and Environmental Education (case studies):
Garden based learning has been especially beneficial in environmental education as well as in teaching scientific concepts. According to the North Carolina Environmental Education Plant (1995), hands-on experiences are the best way for students to develop an understanding of their complex world and their place in it. The Down-to-Earth Program (DTE) provides this kind of learning with a help of school gardens as a knowledge-building tool (Williamson & Smoak, 1999). The main purpose of the DTE program is to introduce youth to sustainable agriculture and environmental education using the scientific method as a conceptual and hands-on learning process that stresses critical thinking, reasoning, and problem solving.
Project Green (an interdisciplinary approach to environmental education) incorporates the school garden and gardening activities into all disciplines, including math, science, English, history, social studies, and art (Skelley & Zajiceck, 1998). An evaluation of the project comparing experimental and control groups found that children in the experimental group, who participated in the gardening program, had more positive environmental attitudes, with second graders showing higher scores than fourth graders.
Gardening’s Impact on Health and Nutrition:
In a garden project called Nutrition in the Garden, teachers were guided to integrate nutrition education as it relates to fruits and vegetables. Evaluations of students participating in the program showed that their attitudes towards fruits and vegetables had become more favorable and they were also more than likely to choose fruits or vegetables as a snack, compared to before they participated in the gardening program. In another garden project it was found that gardening activities enhanced the quality and meaningfulness of children’s learning on a wider level, with children communicating with their communities and parents as well as learning mathematical and scientific principles in the garden. (Canaris, 1995)
1. Do you feel lucky?-Garden Center Products and Services
2. University of California-Gardens, Food & Society Introduction-California School Gardens, Daniel Desmond, University of California Youth Development Advisor, Food & Society Policy Fellow
3. White Hutchinson Leisure & Learning Group-Interaction with Nature during the Middle Years: Its Importance in Children’s Development & Nature’s Future-written by Randy White
4. National Wildlife, August-September 2004 v42 i5 p22, Plant a garden, help a child grow. Kelly L. Senser
5. The Sacramento Bee, Garden of Learning, Erika Chavez
6. Floracopeia, The Learning Garden, David Crow, L.Ac.
7. Child, May 2004 v19 i4 p99, The Ultimate Children’s Garden, Becky Batcha
8. Revisiting Garden Based Learning in Basic Education-Daniel Desmond, James Grieshop, Aarti Subramaniam, October 14, 2002
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