Why School Gardens?
In recent years, various types of gardens are appearing on school grounds all over the world. These gardens are being built by parents, school departments and even community partners. These gardens often aim to connect children with hands-on experiences in nature that complement the academic studies in the classroom. Another common goal is to engage children in the growing, harvesting, preparation and eating of healthy food from the gardens.
Despite nearly 5,000 school gardens across the United States reported by the USDA, including over 600 confirmed school gardens in just Oregon alone (Rick Sherman, OR Department of Education), we still hear many questions like “Why have a school garden?”. In this section, we hope to build a solid case for parents, teachers and administrators who may be struggling with concrete answers to these questions.
Current Academic Research
Research papers on the impact of school gardens and cooking classes are gaining increasing popularity in scientific journals. In this section, we provide summaries of some of the current research as well as PowerPoint slides that can be downloaded and used in presentations.
There have been a handful of studies conducted looking at the impact of school gardens and cooking classes on outcomes such as: 1) academic success; 2) choices of and consumption of fruits and vegetables; 3) social and emotional behavior; 4) food justice; 5) best practices in school gardens; and 6) obesity.
Slow Food USA has completed a literature review of some of the current research findings, and we have prepared summaries for parents, teachers, garden leaders, and school administrators. Below, each category includes a document that summarizes several peer-reviewed papers and a companion PowerPoint that presents this information in graphic form. Please feel free to download, adapt, and utilize these PowerPoint slides, as it is our hope that you can use this information when preparing for a presentation to convince others “Why School Gardens?”.
Research Question: Has participation in school garden programs led to impacts on test scores in classroom subjects such as math and science?
- Impacts of School Gardens on Academic Success (Text Summary)
- Impacts of School Gardens on Academic Success (Presentation)
Choice Behaviors and Fruit/Vegetable Consumption
Research Question: Do garden and cooking classes lead to an increase in either choosing or consumption of fruits and vegetables?
- Impacts of Cooking Programs on Children's Choice Behaviors and Consumption (Text Summary)
- Impacts of Cooking Programs on Children's Choice Behaviors and Consumption (Presentation)
Research Question: Can we measure changes in body weight as the result of participating in school garden, cooking and food education classes?
- Impacts of School Gardens, Cooking Classes, and Food Education on Childhood Obesity (Text Summary)
- Impacts of School Gardens, Cooking Classes, and Food Education on Childhood Obesity (Presentation)
Research Question: How can school gardens be used to raise awareness of food justice issues in a community?
- Impacts of School Gardens on Food Justice, Access, and Knowledge (Text Summary)
- Impacts of School Gardens on Food Justice, Access, and Knowledge (Presentation)
Garden Therapy: Social and Emotional Behaviors
Research Question: Does participation in school garden activities lead to changes in children with behavioral disorders?
- Horticulture Therapy: Impacts of Gardens on Children with Behavioral Disorders (Text Summary)
- Horticulture Therapy: Impacts of Gardens on Children with Behavioral Disorders (Presentation)
Best Practices in Structuring School Gardens
Research Questions: Are there common practices in school gardens that lead to strong leadership, sustainability and successful programs?
- Best Practices for Structuring School Gardens (Text Summary)
- Best Practices for Structuring School Gardens (Presentation)
A HUGE thank you to Shaked Landor of New York University for the time and effort to review all these papers, to produce the summaries and to prepare the PowerPoint slides. We wish Shaked much success as she works to complete her Masters Degree in Bioethics.
Please note that any original data represented in either graphic or written form can be assumed to be statistically significant
Additional Research Findings
- Benefits of School Gardens (Denver Urban Gardens)
- Berezowitz, C. K., Bontrager Yoder, A. B. and Schoeller, D. A. (2015), School Gardens Enhance Academic Performance and Dietary Outcomes in Children. Journal of School Health, 85: 508–518. doi: 10.1111/josh.12278
If you know of any studies not included here, please email us!