School gardens are an excellent tool, not only for educational enhancement, but also inspiring future generations to become food and environmental justice activists!
Proponents of school gardens adamantly support the learning benefits as well as the intrapersonal and interpersonal skill development of engaging children in hands-on gardening activities from a young age (Lam et al., 2019). Including:
· Improving health and academic literacy outcomes
· Promoting personal discovery and growth
· Elevating the importance community and activism
Skills Students Access through School Garden Activities
A school garden provides a space beyond the bounds of a traditional classroom that is blooming with opportunities.
In this outdoor classroom and alternative learning model, students can equitably access resources they need to develop life-long, intersectional skill sets.
Research-based skills gardens have been linked to are:
Health, Nutrition & Agricultural Literacy
Participation in the full spectrum of gardening – planning, planting, maintaining, and harvesting – and preparation of culturally-relevant has shown to improve comprehension of health and nutrition concepts from a young age (Lam et al., 2019). As well as agricultural practices.
Plus, children involved in gardening activities have shown an average of 26% more fruits and vegetables (BPS, 2014). And had an overall increase in willingness to taste new fruits and vegetables.
Environmental & Ecosystem Stewardship
Hands-on agricultural learning experiences outside the classroom gives students real-world interactions with nature. It also allows them to build perspectives on how we use ground for producing food, and how that effects our environment and ecosystems (Lesley University, n.d.).
Individual Growth & Discovery
Research supports the intrapersonal skills gardens allow students to develop outside of a traditional classroom setting.
Students who participate in garden-based or other outdoor activities show boosts in self-confidence and resiliency. They also experience increases in critical thinking and problem solving skills and ability to thrive in stressful situations (Kuo et al., 2019).
Community Building & Activism
Like intrapersonal skills, garden also support the introduction and development of interpersonal skills and community building.
Beyond adopting greater leadership, communication, and listening skills, students are also empowered to foster their own garden-based community, building connections with one another and the environment around them (Kuo et al., 2019).
The capability to build these connections makes students more likely to be engaged in community outside of the garden and care about the impacts on food and environmental caused by humans. Meaning, they are also more likely to engage in food and environmental from a young age.
Ways YOU Can Support School Gardens and the Next Generation of Food Activists
What are ways YOU can support school gardens and the benefits students get from them?
There are many options! Here are some impactful action steps you can take in supporting the next generation of food and environmental justice activists:
- Donate – If you’re lucky enough to have extra funds available, invest back into your community by donating to your local school’s garden.
- Volunteer – Time may be even more valuable than money when it comes to supporting a school garden. Volunteer when you can at your school garden to support planting, maintenance, harvest, and education.
- Educate –Spread research-based information about the benefits students can achieve from school gardens. Share educational materials on social media or engage in one-on-one conversations with other community members, educators, and administrative personnel.
- Advocate – Engage in activism yourself! Appeal to your school board and legislators at the local, state, and even federal level about the importance of funding school gardens as essential tools for education, public health, and community resilience (AFHK, 2020).
Action for Healthy Kids (AFHK). School Gardens: Here We Grow. March 24, 2020. Accessed June 29, 2021. https://www.actionforhealthykids.org/school-gardens-here-we-grow/
British Psychological Society (BPS). School-based gardening encourages healthier eating in children. May 7, 2014. Accessed June 29, 2021. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140507211701.htm
Kuo et al. Do Experiences With Nature Promote Learning? Converging Evidence of a Cause-and-Effect Relationship. February 19, 2019. Accessed June 29, 2021. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6401598/
Lam et al. Exploring the Relationship between School Gardens, Food Literacy and Mental Well-Being in Youths Using Photovoice. June 16, 2019. Accessed June 29, 2021. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6627079/
Lesley University. Raising Children to be Stewards of the Earth. n.d. Accessed June 29, 2021. https://lesley.edu/article/raising-children-to-be-stewards-of-the-earth