Garden-based learning for 21st century education

This project examined the current status and potential of garden--based learning (GBL), a holistic form of experiential education that has been described as an optimum learning environment by the most prominent education theorists for thousands of years (Desmond, Grieshop, & Subramaniam, 2004). The justification for this project is supported by the current data that suggests our nation’s schools have not demonstrated significant improvement in academic scores since the implementation of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Schools have also not shrunk the achievement gap that was a primary focus of the standardized testing protocol of NCLB (“Independent Test Results,” 2015). Existing research demonstrates a correlation between GBL and improved academic scores and improved student attitudes towards learning, including at-risk students, thus suggesting that GBL may be a potential remedy for the stubborn malaise of our schools (Dilafruz, Williams, & Scott, 2013). v Also of great concern is a major health crisis due to childhood obesity that has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years. All of which is compounded by the tripling of youth diabetes in just one generation (“Healthy Schools,” 2015). Research has demonstrated a correlation between students growing fruits and vegetables and their habits of eating more healthy foods (Pfleger, 2015). A learning environment that improves academic performance while promoting healthy eating choices should be considered advantageous for addressing these serious issues. This project was focused on informing the education community regarding GBL, and facilitating increased involvement in school gardens as a means to achieve improvements across many desirable student outcomes while engaging in 21st century learning. The product of this endeavor was a comprehensive website that compiled information for creating, maintaining, and improving school garden learning programs. The information gathered for the website was based on a triangulated method of data mining existing research, an exploration of resources currently available for school garden programs, the experiences of the researcher as a gardener and as the owner of a planter manufacturing business for many years, and the experiences of the researcher as a substitute teacher for the Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD). vi Conclusions Reached Garden--based learning (GBL) is a promising platform for effectively integrating the goals and performance expectations of the Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards. Additionally, GBL can incorporate sophisticated technology into school garden programs in the form of microcontrollers (e.g., Arduino, Raspberry Pi) that can be programmed to automate a vegetable garden by using sensors, switches, relays, LEDs, and LCD displays for real 21st century learning experiences. Although GBL has demonstrated positive results for improving academic scores, student attitudes towards learning, student health, and school climates, existing research is limited and more research is needed to justify increased integration of GBL in schools.