Garden-Based Education and Learning

Image Courtesy of Dylan Duverge
Image Courtesy of Dylan Duverge

Garden-based learning puts hands on activities in the garden at the heart of encouraging children to learn by connecting with nature. Many kids would rather touch things than hear an adult talk about things, so getting their hands dirty and their boots muddy is an increasingly popular approach with many benefits: not the least of which is connecting children with a major natural food source.

A Common Description of Garden-Based Learning

Garden-based learning encompasses programs, activities and projects in which the garden is the foundation for integrated learning, in and across disciplines, through active, engaging, real-world experiences that have personal meaning for children, youth, adults and communities in an informal outside learning setting. Garden-based learning is an instructional strategy that uses the garden as a teaching tool.

A Teacher’s Experience

A story from National Public Radio (NPR) described a teacher’s efforts to get children outside more and engaged with nature. It was based on the fact that kids in the United States are spending less time outside, for a variety of reasons. Even in kindergarten, the amount of time allocation to recess has been cut back, leading to less time outside and more time cooped up inside. A teacher in the small town of Quechee, Vt decided that she wanted to have her student spend an entire day outside. After contemplating the idea she realized that it wouldn’t fly in a public school. But she ran it by her principal and much to her surprise the principal said, “try it.”

It’s called Forest Monday. Every Monday the kids suit up and go outside, regardless of the weather. [READ MORE]

Benefits of Garden-Based Learning

Cornell University has a garden-based learning program and reports several benefits of the program that are backed by a variety of research studies:

Nutrition awareness. Kids and families who are involved in gardening become more aware of and interested in fruits and vegetables, having a potentially positive influence on health.

Environmental awareness. Elementary school and junior high school students gained more positive attitudes about environmental issues after participating in a school garden program.

Learning achievements. Elementary school students who participated in school gardening activities scored significantly higher on science achievement tests than those who did not participate in any garden-based learning activities.

Documenting Garden-Based Learning

As kids embark on garden-based learning, it’s important to track progress and make notes of what is learned along the way. Documenting a garden is important, especially when it’s related to garden-based learning. Keeping track of plantings with a garden-record keeping system such as Muddy Boots Plant Tags can help preserve an historic record of the garden from breaking ground to blooms or harvests.

Additional Resources

The Garden-Based Education website.

The Garden-Based Learning Wikipedia page.

The Cornell University list of Garden-Based Learning Publications.

From Cornell University – Why Garden in Schools.