Sparrow and Finch Gardening Do children who grow kale consume kale

Do children who grow kale consume kale

Back-to-school season is upon us in the United States. For countless students across the country, this means it’s time to return to the school garden.

Educators and philosophers argue that garden-based education improves children’s health and intelligence. Concerns about child obesity and youths’ disconnection with nature in recent years have rekindled interest in this topic.

There are tens of thousands of American school gardens. Some are on the school grounds, while community partners manage others. The majority are linked to the curriculum. Seeds are used to teach plant biology in science, while fruits are used to teach geography in social studies, and the harvest in math is used to learn about weights and measurements. Some schools even include food from the garden in the lunch.

I have spent the past decade as a researcher and activist working to promote an equitable, healthy and sustainable food system. Through this process, a number of bold claims have been made about the ability of garden-based education to address these challenges.

Benefits of school gardens are numerous.

It’s important to take stock of the overall impact of school gardens. Do they improve education and health for young people?

Promoting school gardens

The “Good Food Movement” has been a popular strategy for prominent supporters. Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and First Lady Michelle Obama are both vocal supporters.

A raised bed garden in an elementary school with six raised beds can help children learn. U.S. Department of Agriculture

Nonprofits and grassroots groups have formed partnerships with local school districts to help provide fresh produce to the food-insecure. There are also service-based organizations, like FoodCorps. Their members spend a year in a community with low income to establish gardens and create other school food initiatives.

The American Heart Association has also sponsored the construction of hundreds of new school gardens.

In the United States, up to 25% of elementary public schools include garden-based education. There are school garden projects in all regions of the United States, and they serve students from every age group, ethnic background and socioeconomic class.

How can gardens transform the lives of children?

Gardening is a great way to help kids learn about healthy eating. In his TED Talk “Gangsta Gardener”, Ron Finley, the self-proclaimed “Gangsta Gardener”, described it:

“If children grow kale then they will eat it.”

Does garden-based education help children? UGA College of Ag & Environmental Sciences OCCS CC-BY-NC

Many advocates go further and suggest garden-based education can inspire healthy changes in the family that will help reverse the obesity epidemic.

Some, such as Alice Waters of Edible Schoolyard, argue that gardening can transform a child’s view of the world, transforming it into “the lens with which they see the universe.”

Sure, gardens can help

Anecdotal evidence suggests that garden-based education has educational, nutritional, and ecological benefits.

Several published studies show that garden-based education can improve students’ science and food knowledge. According to other research, garden-based education can improve students’ ability to identify vegetables and lead them to a more positive opinion about eating vegetables.

In general, case studies on garden-based education have been positive, providing stories of life-changing experiences both for teachers and children.

Does gardening increase the consumption of fruit and vegetables? RubyDWCC BY

When it comes to increasing the amount of fresh food eaten by youth, improving their health, or influencing their environmental attitudes, however, quantitative results tend to show modest improvements , at best. Some of the most highly developed school gardens were able to increase vegetable consumption in students by about one serving per day. The research, however, has not shown whether the gains made are sustained over time.

Some critics argue that school gardens simply aren’t worth the time and money, especially for students with lower incomes who would rather focus on traditional college preparation studies.

Caitlin flanagan , a social critic, has even gone as far to say garden programs could be a distraction which could lead to a “permanent uneducated underclass”.

No magic carrots

The power of gardening-based education is often overstated.

Popular Narratives, especially when describing gardening projects in low-income communities and communities of colour, imply that time spent in the garden can save a child from poverty and chronic illness.

This is what I call the “magic carrot approach” to garden-based education. As we all know, the school garden does not contain any magic carrots.

Gardening alone won’t eliminate health disparitiesclose educational achievement gapsfix unemployment, or solve environmental injustice.

When can a garden be considered successful?

To be effective in promoting learning and health through gardens, the entire community must support and reinforce them. Surveys conducted with school garden practitioners reveal that school gardens have the potential to improve school and community life, but only when certain conditions are met.

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