Interest In School Gardens Increasing
by Laura Beitman
July 7, 2008



WHAT: The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society will lead more than 25 teachers in creating a school garden as part of its Green City Teachers program

WHEN: Wednesday July 9, 2008, from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

WHERE: Hackett School, 2161 E. York Street

WHO: More than 25 teachers

PHS Project Coordinator Sally McCabe and Project Manager Larry Stier

DETAILS: Now in its second year and made possible with funding from the Burpee Foundation, Green City Teachers shows Philadelphia-area teachers how to incorporate horticulture and environmental education into their curriculums. Burpee recently awarded PHS $50,000 to continue the program for a third year.

“We are thrilled to provide this funding and continue the education that furthers horticultural and environmental enhancement,” said George Ball, president, chairman and CEO of W. Atlee Burpee & Co., the 130-year-old catalogue and internet seed supplier. “Green City Teachers provides educators with the skills necessary to help students appreciate nature in their lives.”

In light of global warming, childhood obesity, and rising costs of food, an increasing number of teachers in Philadelphia - and across the country - are interested in creating school gardens to connect students to the environment and improve science and nutrition education.

According to the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, more than 100 schools in Philadelphia now have a garden space. Green City Teachers helps teachers learn how to create a school garden habitat, grow vegetables, care for trees, and grow plants indoors. The program also aims to create a network among teachers so they can help each other overcome challenges of creating and maintaining a school garden.

“Two years ago, I started with an idea,” said Brendan Peterson, a teacher at St. Francis Xavier School in Fairmount and a recent graduate of Green City Teachers. “Now we have a garden, raised beds, and a pumpkin patch. It’s because of the support from PHS and the parents that got involved. It’s only going to get better.”

To date, Philadelphia Green has trained 125 teachers as part of its Green City Teachers program. Inspired learning has occurred at schools across Philadelphia including McKinley, Penn Alexander, Longstreth, and St. Francis Xavier. Teachers say the gardens teach children how to nuture life, act more kindly to each other and boosts confidence.

Chuck Lafferty, a teacher and garden enthusiast at Longstreth, said creating a school garden wasn’t easy but was worth the effort. “No child left behind?” he said. “No child left inside as far as I’m concerned.”

The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, a not-for-profit organization, was founded in 1827 and is America’s first horticultural society. Through its membership program, events, horticultural library and outreach efforts, the Society motivates people to improve the quality of life and create a sense of community through horticulture. PHS produces the world-class Philadelphia Flower Show, offers hundreds of gardening programs year-round and is considered the nation’s foremost authority on urban renewal through greening.

More about school gardens

In the 1890s many cities initiated formal school garden programs; however, school gardens are recently enjoying a revival due to the local food movement and concern over childhood obesity. There are thousands of school gardens in the United States, according to the abstract, “The effects of school gardens on students and schools: Conceptualization and considerations for maximizing healthy development,” in Health Education & Behavior Vol 34(6) (Dec 2007): 846-863. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is studying school gardens as a way to promote a more nutritious diet and boost produce consumption, according to an Oct. 25, 2007 article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution. A researcher at Kansas State University recently received a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Research Institute to study whether gardening can promote healthier lifestyles.

Past studies show:

Students in gardening classrooms scored significantly better than those in control classrooms on appreciation for the environment a concern about human impact. Texas A&M graduate student Sonja Skelly designed a project where second- and fourth-grade teachers used a cross-disciplinary gardening curriculum for one semester. She conducted tests with 237 children using the “Children’s Environmental Response Inventory” to assess environmental attitudes. Another study at Texas A&M by graduate student Sarah Lineberger examined how a 16-month gardening program affected third and fourth graders’ nutritional attitudes and behaviors. Results showed that students’ attitudes toward vegetables significantly improved as did their preferences for fruit and vegetable snacks. In 1992, the National Gardening Association conducted a study of third- and fifth- grade classrooms using GrowLabs and the GrowLab curriculum. GrowLab classrooms scored significantly higher than control classrooms in students’ understanding of key life science classrooms in student’s understanding of key life science concepts and science inquiry skills. More recently, studies from Tufts University and Auburn University showed that students who participate in a school garden program eat a broader variety and larger amount of vegetables at home and at school than those who don’t.

For more:

  • New Eden
  • Kids Garden
  • Plant a Row Grow a Row