Enhance Academic Performance

One of the most recent studies of the impact of school gardens on academic performance found that research conducted between 1990 and 2010 has shown "overwhelmingly that garden-based learning had a positive impact on students' grades, knowledge, attitudes, and behavior" (1).

(1) Williams, D.R. & Dixon, P.S. (2013). Impact of garden-based learning on academic outcomes in schools: Synthesis of research between 1990 and 2010. Review of Educational Research 2013.

This section highlights some of the studies that support the findings of the research synthesis.

 

Increasing Scores and Knowledge

While some research has encompassed the positive academic results of school gardens in the areas of math and language arts (1), many studies have focused exclusively on gardens as a tool to enhance science learning. Beyond increasing knowledge of the directly related science topics of gardening, plant ecology, and nutrition (2), garden-based learning actually addresses all eight of the National Science Education Standards (3).

In a review of 12 different studies on the benefits of school gardens, all 12 found that students engaged in gardening scored higher on science achievement tests (4). Klemmer, Waliczek, & Zajicek’s (2005) experiment concluded that the third, fourth, and fifth grade students participating in garden-based learning earned significantly higher science achievement tests scores than those students who were not involved in the school garden (5). Studies by Blair (2009) and Gaylie (2009) also found a positive correlation between garden participation and achievement in science (4, 6). Rye, et al.’s study (2012) highlighted garden programs’ unique ability to improve science education for all types of learners, including children with special needs (7). This full spectrum, wide range of success can be attributed to the less structured, informal environment of the garden, which allows for more natural and spontaneous learning by the students, who become the “creators of the science curriculum” (8). Students’ ownership of their learning solidifies the knowledge and skills gained in the garden.

Supporting Publications:

(1) Williams, D.R. & Dixon, P.S. (2013). Impact of garden-based learning on academic outcomes in schools: Synthesis of research between 1990 and 2010. Review of Educational Research 2013
(2) Pothukuchi, K. (2004).Hortaliza: A youth “nutrition garden” in southwest Detroit. Children, Youth and Environments, 14(2), 124-155.
(3) National Science Education Standards Content Overview 
http://solar-center.stanford.edu/standards/ 
(4) 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.
(5) 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 StudentsHortTechnology. 15(3), 448-452.
(6) Gaylie, V. (2009). The learning garden: Ecology, teaching and transformation. New York, NY: Peter Lang.
(7) Rye, J.A. (2012). Elementary school garden programs enhance science education for all learners. Teaching Exceptional Children, 44(6), 58-65.
(8) Rahm, J. (2002). Emergent learning opportunities in an inner-city youth gardening program. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 39, 164-184.

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Cognitive Function

As previously mentioned in the health section, gardens can improve short term cognitive function through contact with soil’s residential beneficial bacterium, Mycobacterium vaccae, (9), as well as refresh concentration by observing nature (10). There are also many long-term benefits to cognitive function and higher-level thinking associated with garden-based learning (11), principally as a form of experiential, hands-on learning (12).

With the excessive attention to factual knowledge in many education systems in recent years, now more than ever it is essential that schools build up all students’ abilities to process and think critically (13). Projects and other hands-on learning options, such as gardens, have proven very effective in doing just this. In-depth projects such as gardening give students the chance to become experts on a topic on their own terms and in their own way. As active learners, children begin to think independently - questioning, making decisions, taking charge, analyzing, creating, and presenting (14). Since there is no limit to how deeply students can delve into the questions relating to the garden, they are also able to challenge themselves to their fullest individual potential (14).

Supporting Publications:

(9) Lowry, C.A., et al. (2011). Identification of an immune-responsive mesolimbocortical serotonergic system: potential role in regulation of emotional behavior. Neuroscience146(2), 756-772.
(10) Kuo, F.E. (2001). Coping with poverty: Impacts of environment and attention in the inner city.Environment & Behavior, 33(1), 5-34.
(11) Waliczek, T.M., Logan, P., & Zajicek, J.M. (2003). Exploring the impact of outdoor environmental activities on children using a qualitative text data analysis system. HortTechnology, 13, 684-688. 
(12) Mabie, R. & Baker, M. (1996). A comparison of experiential instructional strategies upon the science process skills of urban elementary students. Journal of Agricultural Education, 37(2), 1-7. 
(13) Culin, J. (2002). Butterflies are great teachers: The South Carolina Butterfly Project. American Entomologist, 48(1), 14-18. 
(14) (2009). Project-based learning: Inspiring middle school students to engage in deep and active learning. NYC Department of Education. Division of Teaching and Learning Office of Curriculum, Standards, and Academic Engagement.

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Student Engagement

The real-world application of a garden to practice math, language arts, science, and all other subjects gives students a reason to learn (15). Garden-based activities have the potential to engage students in a variety of ways, allowing students to incorporate their own interests and experiences into the class (15). The hands-on aspect of the school garden is essential in encouraging positive attitudes towards learning (16).

In an evaluation of 7 qualitative school garden studies, all 7 found that children enjoy garden activities and are more excited about learning and school in general when engaged in a garden-based curriculum (17). In a garden pilot project by Heim, Stang, and Ireland, 95.6% of participating children said they enjoyed working in the garden, 91.3% enjoyed learning about fruits and vegetables, 97.8% enjoyed taste-testing different fruits and vegetables, and 93.4% enjoyed preparing fruit and veggie snacks (18). Faddegon (19) also found children were excited by the chance to get dirty and explore the garden. Studies by Dirks & Orvis (20) and Murphy & Schweers (21) reported heightened interest and excitement for learning, more positive attitudes toward school, and better interpersonal relationships among students. This improved sociability has the added benefit of building student motivation to learn by encouraging frequent discussion with fellow students (15).

Supporting Publications:

(15) (2009). Project-based learning: Inspiring middle school students to engage in deep and active learning. NYC Department of Education. Division of Teaching and Learning Office of Curriculum, Standards, and Academic Engagement.
(16) 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, 448-452. 
(17) 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.
(18) Heim, S., Stang, J., & Ireland, M. (2009). A garden pilot project enhances fruit and vegetable consumption among children. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 109, 1220-1226. 
(19) Faddegon, P.A. (2005). The kids growing food school gardening program: Agricultural literacy and other educational outcomes. Doctoral dissertation, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. 
(20) Dirks, A.E., & Orvis, K. (2005). An evaluation of the junior master gardener program in third grade classrooms. HortTechnology, 15, 443-447. 
(21) Murphy, M., & Schweers, E. (2003). Evaluation of a food systems-approach to fostering ecological literacy. Final Report to Center for Ecoliteracy. www.ecoliteracy.org.
Accessed from: http://www.ourcommunityourkids.org/media/4852/OVERVIEW%20of%20Research%20supporting%20Garden-Based%20Learning.pdf

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