The Learning Garden Pilot Program Evaluation and Recommendation Study
Garden/outdoor education programs can help teachers increase student performance and positive attitudes towards the scientific process and their environment (Blair, 2009; Ozer, 2007). However, there are several common obstacles to their widespread implementation: 1) lack of physical garden/outdoor space (Ozer, 2007; Blair, 2009), 2) lack of curriculum integration, and 3) lack of teacher development and training. The Learning Garden project is an innovative solution to all of these obstacles.
The Kitchen [community] (TKC) is a family of restaurants and a 501c3 non-profit organization that creates community through food. TKChas leveraged its 7 years’ experience supporting school gardens in Colorado to create The Learning Garden-an experiential learning environment designed as an extension of the school playground.Learning Garden is an interactive school vegetable garden, using prefabricated raised planters that are easy for a community and school to install and maintain. Children will engage the Learning Garden during free time –before or after school or during lunch and recess.Teachers will engage the Learning Garden by incorporating the physical garden into their daily lesson plans and other curricular activities. TKC will provide teacher development and training through a digital platform.
TKC, in partnership with OpenLands, an Illinois not-for-profit corporation,is currently launching a six-school pilot program within the Chicago Public School District. Five of these schools are either K-8 or middle school and they will be the focus of the study. After this pilot year TKC plans to scale the Learning Garden program nationally. It is the intent of the Learning Garden to: 1) increase children’s exposure to a garden environment by 20%; 2) increase children’s awareness of fresh fruits and vegetables by 20%; 3) increase children’s consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables by one serving a week; 4) foster and increase positive types of children’s play; and, 5) show a positive correlation between outdoor learning environments and increased science and literacy scores.
The Methods by which TKC will deliver this product are:
- Physical presence of built environment
- Method of installation –community participation
- Experiential learning
- Digital platform for teacher technical assistance
- Literacy and Science Lessons Plans