Garrett M. Broad does not work for, consult with on behalf of, or own shares in or receive money from any business or organization who could profit from this piece, and has not disclosed any affiliations that go beyond their academic position.
It’s back-to-school time here in the United States, and for many children across the country, It’s also the time to re-enter the garden at school.
For a long time, educators and philosophers have been arguing that gardening can improve children’s cognitive abilities and enhances their health. Recent years have seen concerns regarding obesity in children, and the disconnect of young people with the natural world has resulted in a renewed interest in the subject.
The majority of American schools have some kind of garden for their students. A lot of them are on school grounds, and some are managed by community partners. The majority of them are linked with the schools’ curriculum. For example, seeds are utilized in science classes to help students understand the science of plants. Fruits are utilized as part of social studies classes to teach about world geography, and the harvest is utilized in maths to investigate the effects of weights and measurements. There are even schools that incorporate food harvested from their gardens into school lunches.
As a researcher as well as an activist, I’ve spent the best part of the past decade striving to build a healthier, sustainable, fair, and equitable food system. Through this work, I’ve heard some bold assertions about the potential of learning in the garden to address these issues.
The school gardens offer a range of advantages.
With the fervor that surrounds gardening-based education nowadays, it’s important to take into consideration the impact of these gardens on society in general. Are school gardens able to help improve the education and health of kids?
Promoting school gardens
Gardening in schools has been a top choice for prominent advocates of the “Good Food Movement.” Celebrity chefs Jamie Oliver and First Lady Michelle Obama have been active supporters.
A garden for elementary schools with 6 raised beds is intended to aid children in learning. U.S. Department of Agriculture
Non-profit and grassroots organizations that see gardens as a means to supply fresh food for those people who are food insecure and have formed relationships in conjunction with schools within the local area. There are also service-based organizations such as FoodCorps, whose members are based in low-income areas, to establish gardens, as well as to establish other food programs for schools.
Organizations that support charities such as the American Heart Association, have also financed the creation of hundreds of school gardens.
Together, more than 25% of all public primary schools within the United States include some form of gardening-based education. Garden projects for schools are found throughout the nation and are accessible to students of diverse ages, ethnic backgrounds and socioeconomic class.
Growing gardens to transform lives of children?
Gardening is believed to help children make better choices for their diets. The self-declared “Gangsta Gardener” Ron Finley said in his renowned TED Talk,
“If kids grow kale, kids eat kale.”
Can garden-based learning aid students in school? UGA College of Ag & Environmental Sciences – OCCS, CC BY-NC
A lot of proponents go even farther, suggesting that gardening-based education can lead to many healthy habits that can benefit the entire family and help combat the obesity epidemic.
Others, such as Edible Schoolyard founder Alice Waters, argue that gardening can have a profound impact on children’s perception of the world which makes sustainable living “the lens through which they see the world.”
Sure, gardens can help
There is a wealth of anecdotal evidence that suggests that learning in the garden can bring ecological, educational, nutritional and social benefits.
For instance, several published studies have proven that learning in the garden can enhance students’ understanding of science as well as healthy eating habits. Another study has demonstrated that gardening-based learning helps students recognize the different kinds of vegetables and increase their views on eating vegetables.
Overall, quantitative case study studies of learning through gardening have been encouraging, offering stories of life-changing experiences for both teachers and children.