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pp. 51-66 | DOI: 10.12973/ijese.2015.230a | Article Number: ijese.2015.041
Published Online: January 10, 2015
Article Views: 681 | Article Download: 418
Recently, schools nationwide have expressed a renewed interest in school gardens, viewing them as innovative educational tools. Most of the scant studies on these settings investigate the health/nutritional impacts, science learning potential, or emotional dispositions of students. However, few studies examine the shifts in attitudes that occur for students as a result of experiences in school gardens. The purpose of this mixed method study was to examine a school garden program at a K-3 elementary school. Our study sought to demonstrate the value of garden-based learning through a focus on measures of learning typically associated with the informal learning environment. These measures tend to take into account shifts in attitude which can be important factors in learning. In contrast, existing studies on school gardens that do examine learning emphasize individual learning of traditional school content (math, science, etc.). Though we did not set out to alter students’ attitudes toward the environment, based upon some preliminary work, we decided to administer an existing environmental attitude survey from Ratcliffe (2007). Interestingly, results from pre/post environmental attitude surveys indicate little to no change, but results from pre/post tests, interviews, and recorded student conversations reveal important, positive shifts in students’ attitudes toward the environment. We argue that these mixed results point to the important role school gardens play in impacting attitudes toward the environment but that better tools are necessary to accurately measure these shifts.
Keywords: Environmental attitudes, informal learning, outdoor learning, garden-based learning, early childhood science methods.
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