Garden-based education benefits backed by research
Nac Gardens is a network of seasoned gardeners, volunteers, teachers, principals, SFA interns, and community organizations. For many of us, evidence-based research is critical to informing our strong advocacy for school and community gardens. There is plenty of research demonstrating the health, social and academic benefits of improved nutrition and school gardening. Take a look at this annotated bibliography that we assembled to highlight a multitude of positive outcomes. The findings, all based on controlled studies and published in academic and health journals, give us a very clear understanding that experiential learning enhances academic outcomes. When we practice experiential learning in the garden, research demonstrates beneficial outcomes, such as improved nutrition and school-community engagement.
Research also shows us that a key to success of implementing and sustaining garden-based education is district buy-in and staff who coordinate the moving pieces that make up garden programs. According to researcher Heather Ohly, a major obstacle to school garden longevity is a “lack of funding and over reliance on volunteers", which we know to be true in history of school gardens in Nacogdoches.
Thankfully, our current school district has been receptive to volunteer efforts. School board members, the superintendent, principles and the Nacogdoches Independent School District curriculum specialist have all been very supportive of volunteer-run school garden programs.
Last Spring, when volunteers asked if the district would consider implementing a school garden coordinator position—the missing ingredient to long-term programmatic success—Dr. Hill, the curriculum specialist for the district, sounded hopeful in a position opening for the 2020-2021 school year.
Our vision is that Nacogdoches Independent School District will add a level of foundational support to these grass-roots school garden efforts by creating a school garden coordinator position for elementary schools throughout the district.
We envision that a school garden coordinator, along with a collaborative network of teachers, volunteers, SFA work-study students and interns, will:
Connect our district by serving as a liaison to NISD administrators, teachers, aids, volunteers, and SFA interns to support teacher-led garden programs
Conduct professional development using garden-based curriculum aligned with TEKS standards
Coordinate school gardens program needs, such as organizing supplies, maintenance plans, and program schedules
Cultivate community partnerships that bring resources to the gardens
Collaborate with school lunch and nutrition specialists to offer school-to-table lunch options
Communicate the exciting project-based learning happening in our school gardens to current and future families, helping to attract and retain NISD students
Conduct research to study the positive effects of garden-based education on testing and nutrition outcomes for our students
Berezowitz, Claire K. et al. “School Gardens Enhance Academic Performance and Dietary Outcomes in Children.” Journal of School Health. Vol. 85, No. 8. August 2015.
Blair, Dorothy. “The Child in the Garden: An Evaluative Review of the Benefits of School Gardening.” The Journal of Environmental Education. Vol. 40, No. 2. Winter 2009.
Figueroa, Ariana Mangual et al. “La Cosecha/The Harvest: Sustainable Models of School-Community Engagement at a Bilingual Program.” The Journal of the National Association for Bilingual Education. Vol. 37, No. 1. 2014.
Ohly, Heather et al. “A systematic review of the health and well-being impacts of school gardening: synthesis of quantitative and qualitative evidence.” BMC Public Health. Vol. 16, No. 286. 2016.
Williams, Dilafruz R. and P. Scott Dixon. “Impact of Garden-Based Learning on Academic Outcomes in Schools: Synthesis of Research Between 1990 and 2010” Review of Educational Research. Vol. 83, No. 2. 2013.