NGA Articles: School Gardens Measure Up

School Gardens Measure Up (cont)

By: Eve Pranis

The Gardening/Nutrition Link

Another study conducted at Texas A&M by graduate student Sarah Lineberger examined how a 16-month gardening program affected third and fourth graders' nutritional attitudes and behaviors. The researcher used a fruit and vegetable preference questionnaire and a 24-hour food recall journal to measure students' attitudes and behaviors at the beginning and end of the gardening program.

The Results. Results indicate that student attitudes toward vegetables significantly improved, as did their preferences for fruit and vegetable snacks.

GrowLab Program Scores

When a teacher uses our K-8 indoor garden-based curriculum guide, GrowLab: Activities for Growing Minds, how do students grow? The National Gardening Association conducted a 1992 study of third and fifth grade classrooms using GrowLab Indoor Gardens and the curriculum.

The Results. GrowLab classrooms scored significantly higher than control classrooms in students' understanding of key life science concepts and science inquiry skills. Students in fifth grade classrooms in the same study scored significantly higher than control classes on attitude scales measuring "concern for the environment" and "confidence in ability to do science."

When 300 teachers were asked in a related survey what significant gains students had made as a result of the GrowLab program, a majority spontaneously reported improvement in each of the following areas:

  • responsibility
  • cooperative behaviors
  • enthusiasm, interest, initiative and love for plants and science
  • environmental awareness and concern
  • understanding of life science concepts
  • science process, problem solving, and math skills
  • pride, confidence, and self-esteem
  • language arts skills

Self Esteem, Social Skills, Behavior

Gardening teachers overwhelmingly report that these are some of the most prominent benefits their kids reap. Here are two research-based highlights:

  • In Laurie DeMarco's 1997 study at Virginia Tech of teachers who had integrated gardening into the curriculum, 75 percent reported that student behavior often or always improves when the garden is a learning context.
  • Researchers at Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, TX, conducted a three-year school garden study (1995-1997) of 12 third grade classrooms. They found that self-esteem in gardening classrooms increased in year one and remained high during the next two years. Students in gardening classrooms also exhibited a greater increase in social concerns (e.g., feeding the hungry) and improved relationships with other students and parents than did students in control classrooms.

Research results aside, real student voices and products speak volumes about what kids harvest from gardening laboratories. Document them when you can. This gem was written by a young gardener in a California juvenile facility.

As I lay in the grass
I hear my conscience pass
telling me to continue to take my garden class
so that I can learn how to plant a flower
take over the world and have all the power
I'm not talking about the power that gives out pollution
I'm trying to come out with a new solution
that can start a new way of thinking
and stop the world from sinking
'cause the clock's ticking
and I'm tweaking
so what I'm trying to say is stop the pollution
and start a sustainable revolution

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