Green Learning

Research Strategy

                        There are so many challenges facing theAmerican education system, so many challenges that nutrition and food-securityare often overlooked. In this difficult economic climate many school systemsare having difficulty just finding the funds for their basic academic programs.Initiatives like the Common Core Standards (CCS) focus on giving students thetools needed to succeed in the work place. While students are learning how towork for a paycheck, our schools are not teaching students how to work forthem-selves. In recent years an emerging body of evidence has shown thatcommunity gardens and designated “green spaces” improve the overall physicaland mental health in urban areas. Other studies show that gardens can beparticularly beneficial in the school yard.

            Gardens canprovide more to a school community than just what grows on the plants. Gardensteach students about agriculture and show them how their food is produced;gardens can also be used to teach lessons on nutrition. Weeding and digging andplanting are great ways for students to get some physical activity while theylearn. Gardens can even be worked into the curriculum, which would help to fundacademic programs at the school. Gardening is becoming a popular hobby aroundGreat Falls even the Great Falls College-MSU (GFC-MSU) campus has a garden. Iknow this because I have been working to develop it for over a year. My workwith the garden has helped me to develop a skill set that will serve me well inmy post-college life. It has also made me realize just how much work it takesto get a successful garden project off the ground in an educationalinstitution. As many challenges as there are to implementing gardeninginitiatives in schools, agriculture programs can offer a lot to America’sailing education system.

RESEARCH RESOURCES

            Beyond myown experience with our campus garden I have drawn scholarly articles from The Society for Public Health Education (Bellows,2014) and Community Food SecurityCoalition’s North American Initiative on Urban Agriculture (Ozer, 2006 )andexcerpts from the text that support my position. Experience gained during mytime with the garden will be used throughout the report to emphasize thegrowing demand for green space in our communities. I will also be usingtestimonials from individuals in the campus community to speak for the benefitsour campus garden has had for students. Instead of a direct refutation, I willdraw on my experience with the campus garden to discuss the challenges facinggardening initiatives in schools.

Research Review

            After theabstract in the urban agriculture article, the article summarizes its researchas follows:

 “This paper presents research on the practicalbenefits of farming in the city, with an emphasis on studies conducted in NorthAmerica and Western Europe. The major points include:

·        Theexperience of growing food is correlated with it’s consumption; the moreexperience people have growing food, the more likely they are to eat it.

·        Urbangardening and farming involve city dwellers in healthy, active work andrecreation.

·        Urbanagriculture builds safe, healthy, and green environments in neighborhoods,schools, and abandoned areas.”

            The articlecites benefits that community gardens and green spaces have on the physical andmental health of individuals, and to the health of the community as a whole. Thearticle also cites studies that show gardeners tend to have healthier eatinghabits due to their immediate access to fresh produce. In urban areas whereproduce is more expensive low income families can save household food dollarsand get nutritious food from community and personal gardens. The authors citestudies that show gardening is a great way for aging senior citizens to getregular exercise. Working to build gardens and green spaces is a great way for individualsto connect with other members of their communities. It is stated in the articlethat community gardens help ease dependence on distant food sources creatinggreater food security within the community. The studies gathered in this paperalso showed that gardening is becoming popular across all age demographics,making community gardening initiatives applicable to all levels of the Americaneducation system.

            While researchon scholastic gardening initiatives is in short supply, the research that doesexist makes a strong case for implementation. That is the position establishedby Emily J. Ozer in her paper for TheSociety for Public Health Education.  Schools that have implemented garden programshave produced major benefits for students and the administration alike. Schoolswith vegetables have had success in promoting education on nutrition and anincreased awareness of how to apply that education among their students. Thework involved in building a garden helps give the students exercise thatdeveloping individuals need to be physically healthy later in life.  The green spaces provided by gardeningprograms helps restore the oxygen in the atmosphere giving students clean airto breath and safe places to play. Along with the benefits to student health,gardening programs can provide affordable opportunities for students to applylessons learned in the classroom (ie. growing been plants to aid in lifescience studies). Gardens can be used as more than tools to aid instructors inthe classroom; they can be classrooms in themselves. Green learning labs canhelp prepare students for futures in agriculture, forestry, and many morefields that relate to botany.  Ozer’sresearch shows that there is a great deal of benefit in implementing scholasticgardening programs, even on college campuses.

            As I statedin my research strategy, the GFC-MSU campus is working on implementing acommunity garden project that has been widely supported by the campuscommunity. While there has been a great deal of support for the garden, therehas also been a great deal of difficulty in the actual implementation of thegarden.(Higgins, 2014) Before the garden could be built The Vista and herstudent volunteers had to spend months drawing up plans for the constructionand administration of the garden. After months of drafting and rewriting theirplans the unofficial garden club had to find funding for the construction andmaintenance of the garden. When the funding was procured, construction began onthe garden. Throughout these initial phases of development the project wasplagued with obstacles that had to be torn down or worked around.

              One of the main problems came from thegardens dependence on student volunteers, many of who are extremely busyindividuals. This made delegating tasks and proving student interest in theproject very difficult. Mark Cook, a senator with Student Government and anactive member of the campus garden club, had this to say: “While many studentsfeel that the garden is a great project for this campus, many of them won’t getinvolved because McDonalds is quicker and easier.” Unfortunately it is truethat many of our students engage in the fast-food-culture because they don’thave the time to garden. In order to be sustainable the garden needs student volunteersto give more than words of encouragement to the gardens organizers.   Without a solid core of student volunteersto work the garden, this project will not be sustainable. Sustainability hasbeen one of the biggest obstacles to the success of this garden and many otherscholastic gardening projects in Great Falls. Were I an administrator in anacademic institution, I would not be willing to support a project that couldnot speak to the issues mentioned above. While a successful garden can producea great number of benefits for students, an unsuccessful garden project wouldbe a drain on the institution that sponsored it, either way this issue isbecoming more prevalent in American society.  

             Lately there seems to be a lot of talk aboutproxy wars in the middle east, the price of concrete in China, and the new coldwar brewing between the US and Russia. Individuals from varying socioeconomicand political backgrounds debate about which political party to blame for theerosion of community spirit in America. What is seldom heard is what thesepeople are actually doing to fix their own communities. Many of the people thattalk about what is wrong with society do very little to change the things theycan’t accept.

            Gardens area way for people to come together with other members of their community, a wayto take control of our personal food supply, a way to build our personal healthand the health of our communities. Scholastic gardening projects can help usbuild a generation of citizens that are aware of their health and the health oftheir surroundings. Building a culture that promotes nutritional andenvironmental awareness can eventually create a society capable of repairingthe damage people have done to our planet and ourselves. Despite the costs andcomplications that come with building greener schools, the difficulties can bewell worth the rewards reaped from theses green spaces.

 

Works Cited

Bellows, A. C.(n.d.). health benefits of urban agriculture. Retrieved from             http://www.co.fresno.ca.us/uploadedFiles/Departments/Behavioral_Health/MHSA/Health           Benefits of Urban Agriculture(1-8).pdf

Ozer, E. J.(2006). and considerations for maximizing healthy development the effects ofschool gardens on students and schools:Conceptualization. Retrieved from     http://www.kohalacenter.org/HISGN/pdf/Ozer_gardens-3.pdf

Cook, M. (2014,March 13). Interview by R. S. Culshaw [].

Higgins, L.(2014, March 20). Interview by R. S. Culshaw [].


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Synopsis
While the number of schools with garden projects has been on the rise, little research has been done on the effects gardening can have on students and school communities. There is however, an emerging body of evidence that suggests going green in the classroom can have positive effects on students’ physical and mental health.
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