Collaboration: Assessing a Garden-Based Approach to Teaching Life Science" to the Workshop for Society and the Environment on Wednesday, November 6 at 10:30 in 1101 Art-Sociology.
Recently, schools nationwide have expressed a renewed interest in school gardens (California School Garden Network, 2010), viewing them as innovative educational tools. Most of the scant studies on these settings investigate the health/nutritional impacts, environmental attitudes, or emotional dispositions of students. However, few studies examine the science learning potential of a school garden from an informal learning perspective. Those studies that do examine learning emphasize individual learning of traditional school content (math, science, etc.) (Blaire, 2009; Dirks & Orvis, 2005; Klemmer, Waliczek & Zajicek, 2005a & b; Smith & Mostenbocker, 2005). My study sought to demonstrate the value of school garden learning through a focus on measures of learning typically associated with traditional learning environments, as well as informal learning environments. Grounded in situated, experiential, and contextual model of learning theories, the purpose of this case study was to examine the impacts of a school garden program at a K-3 elementary school. Results from pre/post tests, pre/post surveys, interviews, recorded student conversations,
and student work reveal a number of affordances, including science learning, cross-curricular lessons in an authentic setting, a sense of school community, and positive shifts in attitude toward nature and working collaboratively with other students. I also analyzed this garden-based unit as a type curriculum reform in one school in an effort to explore issues of implementing effective practices in schools. Facilitators and barriers to implementing a garden-based science curriculum at a K-3 elementary school are discussed. Participants reported a number of implementation processes necessary for success: leadership, vision, and material, human, and social resources. However, in spite of facilitators, teachers reported barriers to implementing the garden-based curriculum, specifically lack of time and content knowledge.