The EARTH program at Gifft Hill School is designed to make middle and high school students more knowledgeable about gardening and food sources. The program encourages students to grow their own fruit and vegetables, but also to learn more about the origins of this food. As such, the program works to encourage students to think more about the impact of gardening and agriculture on a global scale, and gives them the skills they need to start their own garden if they require. From the student’s reactions, the program seems to be very popular and each student has their own favorite crop from those that are grown: pineapples, bok choi, and basil were all mentioned. The purpose of this paper is to explore some of the ways that the school gardening program can grow programmatically, financially, or academically.
Focusing on growth academically, one way that the students can gain more from the EARTH program is to incorporate it into a kitchen garden program. Gibbs et al. (2013) have evaluated a similar program that is designed to incorporate both gardening and culinary elements at a school. It was found that students had a higher appreciation of diverse produce and showed an improvement in how they described foods if they partook in a program that incorporated both the gardening and culinary elements. Additionally, Gibbs et al. (2013) showed that the program encouraged healthy eating, which could be a useful place to start when attempting to tackle the obesity epidemic. The EARTH program could benefit from incorporating the science elements of the gardening program with a home economics approach in which the children learn about how to cook the produce that they grow, perhaps with involvement from anthropology/sociology about how the produce is prepared in different countries.
A facet that could potentially improve the program both financially and academically is allowing the students to sell the produce that they grow on a farmer’s market or similar. Selmer, Rye, Malone, Fernandez & Trebino (2014) designed and implemented a project-based gardening project that was designed to incorporate elements of a gardening program with a focus on statistical and scientific literacy. The article describes how teachers can best implement this kind of program to encourage students to learn real-world statistical and financial skills that can benefit them not only in education but in their later life. This would also help students to finance their project by bringing in income that can be used to either reward students or purchase more land/seeds to grow more crops. This approach could really benefit the EARTH Program at Gifft Hill School in all areas, and encourage students to be more engaged with the project overall.
A final recommendation is that the program incorporate the community more in their project. Mangadu, Kelly, Orezzoli, Gallegos & Matharasi (2016) found that encouraging community gardening helped relations in a US-Mexico border community. Lekies & Eames-Sheavly (2016) also propose that initiatives that encourage students to go out into the community or share the gardening project (or the produce) outside of school can have a number of positive effects. These include a higher sense of civic duty, an improved relationship between the school/students and community members, and an increased understanding of how the community works. These three approaches named can be used alone or in conjunction in order to improve the EARTH Program, which is already successfully enjoyed by the students at Gifft Hill, and make it a more enriching experience. It is hoped that these recommendations will give insight into how gardening programs work within schools and ways that they can benefit students not just at Gifft Hill, but across the world.
- Gibbs, L., Staiger, P. K., Johnson, B., Block, K., Macfarlane, S., Gold, L., … Ukoumunne, O. (2013). Expanding Children’s Food Experiences: The Impact of a School-Based Kitchen Garden Program. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 45(2), 137–146. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jneb.2012.09.004
- Lekies, K. S., & Eames-Sheavly, M. (2016). Evaluating an initiative to increase youth participation in school and community gardening activities. Journal of Youth Development, 3(2), 119–125.
- Mangadu, T., Kelly, M., Orezzoli, M. C. E., Gallegos, R., & Matharasi, P. (2016). Best practices for community gardening in a US–Mexico border community. Health Promotion International, 1(1), 25–32. https://doi.org/10.1093/heapro/daw025
- Selmer, S. J., Rye, J. A., Malone, E., Fernandez, D., & Trebino, K. (2014). What Should We Grow in Our School Garden to Sell at the Farmers’ Market? Initiating Statistical Literacy through Science and Mathematics Integration. Science Activities: Classroom Projects and Curriculum Ideas, 51(1), 17–32. https://doi.org/10.1080/00368121.2013.860418