Northern states have been slower to become involved, but school gardens are no longer exceptional in cooler climates. In the state of New York, more than 200 schools, 100 teachers, and 11,000 students garden using a state curriculum (Faddegon, 2005). Vermont actively promotes school gardening in partnership with the National Gardening Association, which is housed in Burlington, Vermont (National Gardening Association, 2006), and provides demonstration gardens, national newsletters, and teacher education.
Overwhelmingly, gardens (Waliczek, Bradley, Lineberger, & Zajicek, 2000) and gardening curricula target elementary students. Some of the most popular curricula are the 1978 Life Lab K-5 Science Program (LifeLab, 2006); 1990 GrowLab curricula (National Gardening Association, 2006); Texas A&M's Junior Master Gardener Program (Dirks & Orvis, 2005); UC Davis' curriculum Nutrition to Grown On (California Department of Education, 2005; Morris & Zidenberg-Cherr, 2002); and New York's curriculum Kids Growing Food (Faddegon, 2005).
School gardening covers a continuum of efforts to increase the horticultural complexity of the schoolyard, including potted plants, raised beds on asphalt, indoor vermiculture composting, in-ground plantings (Graham et al., 2005), habitat and butterfly gardens, sunflower houses and ponds, composting areas accommodating a school's daily lunch waste (Graham, Feenstra, Evans, & Zidenberg-Cherr, 2004), and a systematic approach to redesign the outdoor space around schools into learning landscapes (Brink & Yoast, 2004). The purposes of the redesigned schoolyard are academic, behavioral, recreational, social (increased sense of belonging, self-esteem, and compassion), political (the schoolyard as a visible community asset), and environmental remediation. Educators and landscape architects used these criteria for the Boston Schoolyard initiative (Corson, 2003) and the Youth and Landscapes program, a collaboration between Denver schools and University of Denver graduate students in landscape architecture to redesign derelict schoolyards (Brink & Yoast).
Schools can move even further afield, as in place-based learning, developing collaborations with rural community partners that aid and facilitate the study of local natural resources (Emekauwa, 2004), or creating partnerships with university forestry departments, city park naturalists, and local businesses to facilitate the study of urban forest ecology (Milton, Cleveland, & Bennet-Gates, 1995). Emekauwa reported that 3 years of place-based learning focusing on local ecology--nature trails, soils, geology, butterfly gardens, and school interactions with community ecological experts--resulted in substantial reductions in unsatisfactory standardized test scores for language arts, math, science, and social studies among fourth-grade students in a poor, rural, 80% African American, Louisiana school district. Lieberman and Hoody's (1998) frequently quoted study reviewed 40 schools in 12 states, comparing classrooms that used the environment as an integrating context for learning with nonintegrating classrooms. Those researchers found that enthusiasm for learning, standardized test scores, and GPAs were higher in 92% of the comparisons--particularly in language arts, social studies, science, math, and thinking skills. The National Environmental Education and Training Foundation (2000) stated that the environment, "from classroom to schoolyard to local nature centers and parks" (p. 7), enables learning that is problem-based and interdisciplinary; with a significant positive impact on achievement.
The specific question that I addressed in this review of the literature is whether a school garden, without causing extensive changes m the schoolyard or integrating broader environmental fieldwork into the curriculum, provides sufficient experiential education to cause measurable and observable changes in student achievement and behavior. Enthusiasm for school gardening is dearly present, but the literature on school gardening's impact on children's learning and behavior comes from many disciplines and has not yet received a thorough, integrative review. My approach is to first give an overview of the rationales for school gardening and then critically examine the evaluative research on school-gardening outcomes.
Rationales for School Gardening
Broadening Children's Experience of Ecosystem Complexity
In earlier eras, Rousseau, Gandhi, Montessori, and Dewey--most notably--promoted school gardens (Subramaniam, 2002). When farms and nature were readily accessible to most children, the goal of school gardens was pragmatic and normative: to teach through experience, to connect children to pastoral nature, and to shape their moral outlook (Bundschu-Mooney, 2003; Subramaniam). School gardening in the United States was originally introduced for aesthetic purposes. It became a national movement first in 1918 and again, with a focus on food production, during World War II, but it waned in the 1950s because of the nation's focus on technology (Subramaniam).
Today's children lack experience with natural ecosystem complexity. In all, 83% of the U.S. population lives in metropolitan areas (U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2006). Thus, pasture or wilderness is no longer the normative standard for experience in nature (Mergen, 2003). Two-worker families who are concerned for the safety of their unattended children must choose dose supervision of afterschool and summer playtime. Television, video games, and organized sports have taken the place of unsupervised wandering and environmental exploration (Moore, 1995). As childhood becomes more structured, the places where children must play are open and lack the appeal of intimate spaces grounded in the natural environment (Francis, 1995). City children search out dirt, water, trees, and natural elements and explore and play in the same manner in which rural children do (Mergen), but urban sprawl and environmental degradation reduce the frequency of these city children's positive experiences with natural elements in their environment (Finch, 2004; Kellert, 2002; Orr, 2002). A study of three generations of children in a New York City neighborhood shows a decline in natural areas and an increase in restricted access to the neighborhood and reliance on supervised play (Gaster, 1991). In Gaster's study, schools were considered safe areas. However, typical asphalt-covered or flat green schoolyards were, as they are today, monocultures that minimized environmental complexity.
Whether urban or rural, the landscape in which children find themselves is the staging ground for their imagination, their story, their sense of the world (Mergen, 2003). If formal playgrounds or sports fields delimit many children's natural experiences (Nabhan & Trimble, 1994), well-designed school gardens can readily improve on the complexity of that experience and provide the repetitive access, meanings, and associations needed to create a bond with a place. However, because of the way school gardens are typically interpreted and constructed in our culture, few contain intimate spaces, dements of the wild, or places to dig in dirt. Educators must adjust their norms for neatness, play area supervision, and ease of outdoor maintenance for school gardens to contain areas that are not neatly planted or controlled, thereby making them available for children's imaginative play (Finch, 2004).
Gardens adhering to the principles of biodiversity and organic pest management--containing ponds or recycling streams, trees, and butterfly attractors--would be havens for a wide variety of flora and fauna beyond the crops, flowers, and bushes purposely grown and would demonstrate ecosystem complexity. Gardens that children help to plan allow "close, personal experiences with the earth" (Thorp & Townsend, 2001, p. 349), repeated sensory contact, and interaction with a particular intimately known space, creating confidence in the processes of nature that some researchers believe is necessary for healthy human development (Thorp & Townsend).
Place-Based Learning Clarifies the Nature and Culture Continuum
Personal experience and observation of nature are the building blocks for classroom enrichment (Nabhan & Trimble, 1994). A garden is an environment in miniature, and to be successful a gardener must work in sympathy with nature (Demas, 1979). Gardens ground children in growth and decay, predator-prey relations, pollination, carbon cycles, soil morphology, and microbial life: the simple and the complex simultaneously. Gardens are intensely local. Everything except possibly the purchased plants and seeds are part of the natural local environment. The clouds, rain, and sun, the seasonal cycle, the soil and its myriad organisms, the insects, arachnids, birds, reptiles, and mammals that visit the garden teach about place. Even if some of the weeds, insects, and birds are not native to a place, these immigrant flora and fauna are as locally adapted as the children themselves. Nature and naturalare relative terms that depend on cultural norms and the limits of our own ahistorical experience with place (Finch, 2004; Mergen, 2003; Nabhan & Trimble, 1994). Seeds and gardening styles are the stuff of history, culture, ethnobotany, and literature. Along with English sparrows, starlings, quack grass, and bees, gardening provides another kind of lesson, one about human interaction with the natural world.
Vegetable Gardening Teaches Food Systems Ecology
Anonymous prepackaged food arrives at supermarkets from energy-intensive, polluting, and often obesity-promoting industrial food-manufacturing systems. Researchers have estimated that this system consumes 17-20% of American fossil fuel and that 29% of the food is wasted (Blair & Sobal, 2006; Pollan, 2006). To decrease the threat of the obesity epidemic, children need to broaden their perspective on what foods are edible and to repersonalize food. Gardening in America's northern regions during the school year requires elongating the growing seasons in both spring and fall, thus stretching children's knowledge and taste for cool-season vegetables, particularly for dark leafy greens. Because of our supermarkets' global reach and constant supply of heat-loving vegetables, many cool-season crops remain unfamiliar. For more ecological, local food systems to satisfy year-round vegetable needs, children's tastes in food need to expand beyond the fatty, salty, sweet, and subtropical (Blair, 1996).School and youth gardens teach "how a plant goes from seed to plate" (Rahm, 2002, p. 175), as one master gardener said. Such gardens introduce young gardeners to local sustainable food systems, as children eat their own produce, compost cafeteria food waste, and connect with adult growers and market gardeners (Graham et al., 2004; Moore, 1995; Morris, Briggs, & Zidenberg-Cherr, 2000). The act of growing food from seeds is exciting, even miraculous; the product is something special to be taken home to share.
fonte: The Journal of Environmental Education articles