Masters Thesis

An exploration of the benefits of gardening on elementary school students’ mental and physical well-being and community including students identified as having disabilities

Gardening has been known to reduce stress and increase relaxation in people with emotional disturbances, developmental delays, mental illness, sensory integration challenges, and the average gardener alike. Gardening has also been seen at times as a liberating and empowering activity that contributes to a sense of individual and group accomplishment. Though the relationship between gardening at schools has been studied in regard to creating and fostering community, agriculture education, health education, and other disciplines, the relationship between gardening at schools for children identified as having disabilities has gone largely understudied. Through a series of classroom visits and participation in gardening activities with children receiving services for special needs; this study seeks to further understand and explore this relationship. The gardening lessons will be accompanied by a series of journaling activities after gardening, and other modes of emotional and sensory expression (drawing, taking pictures, etc). Through teacher, potentially parent, student, and researcher surveys and expression activities, this relationship will be further explored and evaluated. This study may have broader implications in the curriculum and design of gardening based education programs, adaptation of special education programs, and student advocacy.