The Outdoor Classroom and Garden-based Learning ProjectWhy a Garden???
Garden-based learning (GBL) encompasses programs, activities and projects in which the garden is the foundation for integrated learning, in and across disciplines, through active, engaging real-world experiences that have personal meaning for children, youth, adults and communities.
Garden-based learning is essentially an instructional strategy that utilizes the garden as a teaching tool. The practice of garden-based learning is a growing global phenomenon. In some settings it is the educational curriculum and in others it supports or enriches the curriculum. Nevertheless, garden-based learning has been viewed as contributing to all aspects of basic education, including academic skills, personal development, social development, moral development, vocational and/or subsistence skills, and life skills.
Benefits of garden-based learning among children and youth…
Landscape designers, teachers, and others consider children’s gardens to be one of the most notable positive trends in the nation today. These environments can foster scientific literacy and social skills, while enhancing an awareness of the link between plants in the landscape and our clothing, food, shelter, and well-being. Gardening projects provide children and youth with the carefree exploration of the natural world that occurs rarely in today's era of indoor living; it can also give young people the chance to develop a wide range of academic and social skills. Noted benefits of garden-based learning programs among youth include increased nutrition awareness, environmental awareness, higher learning achievements, and increased life skills.
Increased nutrition awareness Research indicates that youth who participate in garden-based learning programs have increased their consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, and gained new enthusiasm for fresh, nutritious vegetables they grew. Teachers also regarded the garden to be very effective at enhancing academic performance, physical activity, language arts, and healthful eating habits.
Increased environmental awareness Research highlights that high school students gain more positive attitudes about environmental issues after participating in a school garden program. Gardening has also been shown to increase scores on environmental attitude surveys of elementary school children.
Higher Learning Achievements Studies indicate that students that participated in school gardening activities scored significantly higher on science achievement tests compared to students that did not experience any garden-based learning activities. Other research has indicated that weekly use of gardening activities and hands-on classroom activities help improve science achievement test scores.
Increased Life Skills Research has highlighted the increased life skills attributed to children's garden programs: enhances moral education, increases appreciation for nature, increases responsibility, develops patience, increases in relationship skill, increases self-esteem, helps students develop a sense of ownership and responsibility, and helps foster relationships with family members.
“Everything is mended by the soil.” ― Andrew Crofts
"Gardens, scholars say, are the first sign of commitment to a community. When people plant corn they are saying, let's stay here. And by their connection to the land, they are connected to one another."
- Anne Raver
Core Uses For Garden-Based Learning In Basic Education
“We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.” ~Franklin Delano Roosevelt
- To support core academic training, particularly in science and math – real world hands on experiences
- Enrichment of core curriculum in language arts through introduction of new learning landscapes
- To support standards based education in countries with national or regional education standards
Personal Development (Mental & Physical)
- To add a sense of excitement, adventure, emotional impact and aesthetic appreciation to learning
- To improve nutrition, diet and health
- To teach the art and science of cooking with fresh products from the garden or local farms
- To re-establish the celebratory nature of a shared meal
- Provide ‘real life’ experiences that foster team decision-making to a collective goal
- Provide respite from academic and social stress
Social & Moral Development
- To teach sustainable development
- To teach ecological literacy and/or environmental education
- To teach the joy and dignity of work and a sense of community
- To teach respect for public and private property
Vocational and/or Subsistence Skills
- To teach basic skills and vocational competencies
- To produce food and other commodities for subsistence consumption and trade
- To teach about food and fiber production
- To engage children in community service and environmental care
- To involve students in lessons of leadership and decision making
Core uses for garden-based learning beyond basic educationCommunity Development
- Gardens often serve as a focal point for community dialogue, capacity building, and partnerships
- Gardens often organize individuals for action – for water delivery, cooperatives, and transportation
- Gardens are an appropriate arena to introduce children to the interconnections that link nature to economic systems and society