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Planting the Seed: Garden-Based Learning in Our Classrooms

As we head deeper into spring, I find myself looking forward to all those fun outdoor activities: biking, frisbee, hikes in the great outdoors, and of course, gardening. A personal love of mine, gardening has given me opportunities to learn a bit of botany, connect to others in my community and give me a relaxing little oasis to escape from the world. So when I heard about some public schools adding gardening to their curriculum I was ecstatic!

Every year more and more schools are adopting the practice of garden-based learning. Students, along with teachers and parents, are digging their figures into the dirt and tending to those little green things, and the students are loving it. Garden-based learning has not only been popular among students, but among educators too. Students who have participated in school garden projects have shown an increase in standardized test scores, increased ecological awareness, community involvement, and newfound passions for learning. When compared to schools that did not offer this kind of opportunity, 92 percent of students who participated in garden-based learning showed higher standardized test scores in language arts, math, science, and social studies, as well as higher GPAs and more enthusiasm for learning.

Gardening is a great way to get the students involved in the community. Programs like Farm to School in Davis, California connects schools with local farmers, which give the students the opportunity to learn from the workers in their community first hand, as well as increase awareness of what is around them though field trips to their local farms. These programs also equip the schools with fruits and vegetables from those same farms in addition to the produce that comes from the school garden.

Students also learn to question the world around them. When students get their hands on fruits and vegetables from the get-go, those foods all of a sudden become much more interesting. They start to question where the other foods they eat come from. How did that cupcake get here? What vegetables went into making that? When students are aware of how some of the food they are eating got to them, they are much more likely to chose to eat the healthy foods they are familiar with; which is easy for them when their cafeteria is full of fresh, organic food picked from the school garden or neighboring farm that morning.

The students are doing better in school, are eating healthy alternatives and are just all around happier by having the opportunity to learn outside. Teachers and students alike are taking pride in the student's work. The gardens give them actual evidence that they are doing well, and let’s be honest as adults we would rather have our work measured in flowers rather than numbers too. I think school gardens are a great idea. Bravo schools, bravo!

Toria Van Horst

Toria is a connoisseur of life. When she is not in the active pursuit of knowledge or developing one of her many skills, she can be found lying on the floor until the pull of boredom forces her to go poke her roommate for an adventure. Her passions include social dancing, food consumption, and adventuring in the great outdoors. She’s excited to be able to use one of those passions in her work for Facing the Future.

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