Children today are growing up in a changing world. It affects how they learn, the food they eat and the places where they play. Garden-based learning touches on all three of these critical elements of children’s healthy development.
At CitySprouts, we are building on the evidence that garden-based learning increases children’s engagement in academic subjects. It increases children’s appreciation and awareness of the natural world. It helps children make healthier food choices. CitySprouts is working to make learning gardens a reliable resource for even the neediest school communities and a learning experience accessible to all children.
Key findings in an outside evaluation of CitySprouts (Schiavo 2012) reveal that teachers in the CitySprouts program believe the school garden helps their students understand science concepts more deeply and fully, especially their students with special education plans and English language learners. They believe garden-based lessons engage their students more than lessons taught solely in the classroom.
In CitySprouts’ partner schools, 83% of teachers in Cambridge and 55% of teachers in Boston utilize the learning garden for instruction with CitySprouts’ support.
More than 75% report that the garden helps their students achieve their learning goals, especially non-traditional learners such as English language learners. Food-service staff, teachers, parents and children themselves all point to the positive impact CitySprouts has had on changes in children’s attitudes and behavior around healthy food choice. In our middle school program, more than 60% of youth report trying at least one new vegetable for the first time; 67% reported a positive opinion change; and more than half took home a vegetable from the school garden to share with their family. CitySprouts has begun the process of transitioning to include additional evaluation tools: the Common Instrument to measure changes in students’ STEM engagement and the APT-O and APT-Q to evaluate program quality.
CitySprouts is active in the emerging movement taking place around the country to develop garden-based learning models that reach children with the least resources they need to thrive. CitySprouts founder Jane Hirschi describes five examples of such programs in her book Ripe for Change: Garden Based Learning in Schools. Other studies that point to the impact of garden-based learning: