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Educators' Perceptions Associated with School Garden Programs in Clark County, Nevada: Practices, Resources, Benefits and Barriers

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Abstract and Figures

Background: School garden programs have grown in popularity in the United States. Educators’ attitudes, knowledge, and motivation are crucial to implementing comprehensive school garden programs. To expand school garden education, it is necessary to identify effective practices and determine the resources necessary to deliver these programs, as well as describe the benefits and barriers of using school gardens in order to provide the rationale for spending time and money on gardens.Methods: Accordingly, the purpose of this study was to describe principals’ and teachers’ current practices, and to identify perceived benefits and barriers and report needed resources to operate successful school gardens. A survey was sent to 250 CCSD teachers and administrators using an electronic web site link. One hundred and nineteen educators completed the survey, 105 of which met criteria to be used in this study.Results: Many educators with gardens perceive that students benefit from school garden programs. Significant differences between teachers and administrators in regards to the benefits of school gardens as well as operational factors such as when students used the gardens were noted.Conclusion: This suggests a need for improved communication between these two groups to align expectations of school garden programs.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Educators Perceptions Associated with School Garden Programs in
Clark County, Nevada: Practices, Resources, Benefits and Barriers
Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, School of Community Health Sciences, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, 4505 S. Maryland Parkway, Las
Vegas, NV 89154, USA
*Corresponding author: Jennifer P, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, School of Community Health Sciences, University of Nevada, Las Vegas,
4505 S. Maryland Parkway, Las Vegas, NV 89154, USA, Tel: 7028952006; E-mail: jennifer.pharr@unlv.edu
Rec Date: Jan 20, 2016; Acc Date: Feb 09, 2016; Pub Date: Feb 18, 2016
Copyright: © 2016 Jennifer P. et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted
use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Abstract
Background: School garden programs have grown in popularity in the United States. Educators’ attitudes,
knowledge, and motivation are crucial to implementing comprehensive school garden programs. To expand school
garden education, it is necessary to identify effective practices and determine the resources necessary to deliver
these programs, as well as describe the benefits and barriers of using school gardens in order to provide the
rationale for spending time and money on gardens.
Methods: Accordingly, the purpose of this study was to describe principals’ and teachers’ current practices, and
to identify perceived benefits and barriers and report needed resources to operate successful school gardens. A
survey was sent to 250 CCSD teachers and administrators using an electronic web site link. One hundred and
nineteen educators completed the survey, 105 of which met criteria to be used in this study.
Results: Many educators with gardens perceive that students benefit from school garden programs. Significant
differences between teachers and administrators in regards to the benefits of school gardens as well as operational
factors such as when students used the gardens were noted.
Conclusion: This suggests a need for improved communication between these two groups to align expectations
of school garden programs.
Keywords: Practices; Resources; Benets and barriers
Introduction
School gardens were introduced in the U.S. at the end of 19th
century. By 1918, every state in the U.S had at least one school using a
garden. ese gardens were created to enhance food production as a
part of the war eort [1]. roughout the 1900’s the prevalence of and
enthusiasm for school gardens has uctuated. However, since First
Lady Michelle Obama publically promoted the creation of vegetable
gardens in 2009, their numbers have steadily grown [2].
Support for school gardens has come from various sources. State
departments of education and university extension programs in Texas
and California have actively promoted school gardening programs
through teacher training curricula and research [3]. e California
Department of Education launched an initiative, “A Garden in Every
School,” in 1995. Legislation was passed in 2006 making all K-12
California public schools eligible for grant monies to establish gardens
that support the academic curriculum [4]. California now has an
estimated 3,000 schools with gardens [5]. Two East Coast states have
also established themselves as leaders in promoting school garden
programs. More than 200 schools utilize garden curriculums that
impact an estimated 11,000 students in New York. Additionally,
Vermont has a program that operates in partnership with the National
Gardening Association which provides garden training and teacher
education [3].
School garden programs that incorporate outdoor classroom
components provide an opportunity for students to learn science,
math, social studies, language and visual arts through hands-on
experiences [6,7]. Moreover, they may be impactful in addressing the
current obesity crisis in the U.S., because garden programs promote
healthier eating and opportunities for physical activity [8]. By allowing
students to eat the produce that they have grown school gardens
provide a unique opportunity for teachers to address the importance of
vegetable and fruit consumption. Additionally, studies have shown that
students exposed to school gardens have improved nutrition
knowledge, increased consumption of, and enhanced preference for,
fruits and vegetables [9-15].
Learning about agriculture through an academic curriculum also
provides an opportunity for students to study vegetable and fruits,
including where they come from, their nutritional benets, and the
concepts of composting and recycling [16]. Outdoor education
additionally has the potential to enhance physical activity because of
the weeding, watering, digging and other basic labor associated with
garden maintenance [8,17,18].
School garden programs oer a modality to educate children in
both academic areas and nutrition through hands-on learning
experience. However, the utilization of school gardens, the style of
instruction for teaching in the gardens, and its integration into
academic curriculum vary by school and teacher. For instance, in some
schools the gardens are open and available to students during lunch,
recess or aer school. In other schools students spend class time in the
Journal of Nutrition & Food Sciences Tomomi, et al., J Nutr Food Sci 2016, 6:2
http://dx.doi.org/10.4172/2155-9600.1000465
Research Article Open Access
J Nutr Food Sci
ISSN:2155-9600 JNFS, an open access journal Volume 6 • Issue 2 • 1000465
Tomomi Murakami, Jennifer Pharr and Timothy Bungum
garden while being exposed to an organized curriculum [8]. e
amount of time students spend in gardens also varies. In some schools
students visit the garden multiple times per week; while in the others
they may only visit the garden once per month or less [9,10,19].
Graham and colleagues surveyed principals to determine the status
of school gardens in California [20]. e most frequently cited reason
for having a garden was to enhance academic instruction, usually in
the subject areas of science, environmental studies, and nutrition.
Principals also specically noted that gardens eectively enhanced
science instruction. Barriers to garden instruction were lack of time,
lack of curricular materials linked to academic standards, and a
paucity of teacher interest, knowledge, experience, and training [20].
A similar study was conducted with fourth grade teachers in
California to assess perceived attitudes of, and barriers to, school
garden programs [16]. Again, their main reason for using gardens was
for the enhancement of academic instruction. e subjects taught most
oen were science, nutrition, environmental studies, language arts, and
math. Teachers strongly agreed that resources and support needed for
the school garden instruction included teacher training, curriculum
materials, and nutrition education. e most common barrier to using
the garden for academic instruction was time. Other barriers that
teachers identied included the lack of teacher interest, experience,
curricular materials and training.
Because of the limited published research in this area, it is
important to investigate educators’ thoughts and perceptions about
gardening programs. is study describes the current practices in
school gardens as well as administrators’ and teachers’ perceptions
about needed resources for eective garden instruction, benets of
using gardens, and barriers to the school garden programs in the Clark
County School District (CCSD) in Nevada. Study objectives were:
1. To determine current practices within school garden programs.
2. To determine the resources, perceived benets and barriers
associated with the use of garden programs in schools as
identied by administrators and teachers. A sub-purpose was the
assess dierences across teachers based on the amount of time
spent in the gardens.
Methods
is study was collaboration between UNLV, CCSD and Green Our
Planet. Green Our Planet is a non-prot organization that has helped
over seventy schools establishes gardens in the CCSD. is research
project was approved by UNLV’s and CCSD's Institutional Review
Boards.
Research design
e research design was cross-sectional. Invitations to participate in
the study were emailed to a convenience sample of 250 CCSD
administrators and teachers selected by members of the CCSD’s upper
administration. e survey was delivered through Qualtrics, an on-line
survey system. An email invitation with a link to the electronic survey
was provided to the educators.
Content of survey
e survey was developed by Life Lab in collaboration with the
California School Garden Network. Additional questions were added
to address our specic research objectives. e survey ultimately
consisted of 30 questions, the majority of which requested closed-
ended responses; however, for each question participants had the
opportunity to provide written comments. For most items, educators
could select all answers that applied to their school/classroom. e
survey was divided into four main sections: (1) current school garden
practices; (2) resources required for successful use of school gardens;
(3) barriers to having and using school gardens; and (4) the perceived
benets students receive from participation in school gardens.
Statistical analysis
Data were analyzed using SPSS21 to generate frequency
distributions and to identify selected dierences across groups.
Dierences in teachers’ and administrators’ responses to questions
regarding resources, benets and barriers were analyzed using Chi-
Square and Fisher’s Exact Tests. Statistical signicance was achieved
when P ≤ 0.05. Additionally, teachers who use the garden one hour or
less per month (Low Usage [LU]) and teachers who use the garden
greater than one hour per month (High Usage [HU]) were compared
using the same methods. Fisher’s exact tests were used when a cell in 2
× 2 tables had a frequency of less than ve.
Results
One hundred and twenty-nine educators started the survey and 119
completed at least 90% of it for a response rate of 51.6%, and a
completion rate of 92.2%. Of the 119, most, [105 (88%)] of the
respondents were employed at schools that had a garden while 14
(12%), did not. Only data from schools with gardens were used for this
analysis.
Of the 105 respondents from schools with gardens, 81 were teachers
and 24 were administrators. Responses were evaluated for the entire
group, and then stratied by HU and LU teachers and administrators.
Seventy teachers provided information about the amount of time they
spend in the garden, 29 teachers were LU and 41 were HU.
When results were not signicantly dierent between teacher
groups, HU and LU, or between teachers and administrators, the data
were combined. When there were signicant dierences between
groups, results are presented separately.
Ninety-one percent of the educators were from elementary schools
(pre-kindergarten through h grade) while 2% were from middle,
and 7% were from high schools. Fiy-eight percent of the gardens had
been installed at the school within the last year, while 30% had been
built within 2-4 years, 4% in the past 5-10 years and 8% been in use for
more than 10 years (Figure 1).
Educators indicated that they used the gardens for multiple teaching
purposes. e most frequently mentioned subject areas were
mathematics, English language arts, sciences, and health & nutrition
education. More than 77% of educators identied each of these
subjects as being taught in the garden, followed by history/social
science (58%) and environmental studies (53%).
e most frequent times for using gardens were during class
instruction (>90%), before or aer school (25% and 24%, respectively),
and during the summer (18%). Administrators were statistically more
likely to report that gardens were used during lunch (p=0.03), aer
school (p=0.02) and at recess (p=0.05). School gardens were used
mainly for academic instruction (38%), experiential learning (19%)
and subject matter reinforcement (16%). Administrators also reported
Citation:
Practices, Resources, Benefits and Barriers. J Nutr Food Sci 6: 465. doi: 10.4172/2155-9600.1000465
Page 2 of 7
J Nutr Food Sci
ISSN:2155-9600 JNFS, an open access journal Volume 6 • Issue 2 • 1000465
(2016) Educators’ Perceptions Associated with School Garden Programs in Clark County, Nevada:
Tomomi M, Jennifer P, Timothy B
that gardens were used for experiential learning more oen than did
teachers (p=0.03) (Figure 1).
Resources associated with the use of school gardens
e majority of educators indicated that an important resource
which supports academic instruction in the garden was teacher
training (61%). ere were no signicant dierences between groups
(HU/LU teachers or teachers/administrators); however, it is of note
that funding was the most frequent response provided by
administrators (71%). Funding and access to garden based curriculum/
education materials were also reported as important resources by
teachers. When asked what kind of garden-based professional
development educators had received during the past three years, the
most frequent answer among all groups of educators was “no
professional development” (33%) (Figure 2).
Figure 1: Current practices in the school gardens in Clark County school district.
Accordingly, educators would like to see certain professional
development topics oered to improve their ability to use the gardens.
e two topics selected most oen by all educators were connecting
the garden to common core English/Language Arts and Math (69%),
and connecting the garden to Next Generation Science Standards
(67%). ere were however dierences between educator groups for
‘connecting the garden to the Next Generation Science standards’
(NGSS), as HU were more apt to see NGSS as needed than did LU
teachers. Administrators also identied garden-based learning in early
childhood education more oen than teachers (p=0.02) (Figure 2).
e elements that educators agreed would lead to the success of
school garden programs included motivated teachers (57%), funding
(57%), administration support (56%), garden coordinator sta position
(54%), and time scheduled within the school day for garden
instruction (54%). HU teachers and LU teachers diered on whether
professional development was an important element inuencing the
success of a school garden program (Figure 2).
Barriers to having and using school gardens
Educators were asked what barriers or obstacles they experienced
working in the garden. More than 50% of the educators indicated that
the most common barriers was lack of time, followed by lack of
experience (45%), and lack of training (34%). HU and LU teachers
diered on a ‘lack of interest in using the garden by teachers which
was selected more frequently by HU teachers (p<0.01) (Figure 3).
Page 3 of 7
J Nutr Food Sci
ISSN:2155-9600 JNFS, an open access journal Volume 6 • Issue 2 • 1000465
Citation:
Practices, Resources, Benefits and Barriers. J Nutr Food Sci 6: 465. doi: 10.4172/2155-9600.1000465
(2016) Educators’ Perceptions Associated with School Garden Programs in Clark County, Nevada:
Tomomi M, Jennifer P, Timothy B
Figure 2: Resources associated with the use of school gardens in Clark County school district.
Figure 3: Barriers to having and using school gardens in Clark
County school district.
e perceived benets students receive when school gardens
are incorporated into the school curriculum
e most prevalent perceived benets of school gardens among
teachers were increased nutrition knowledge (76%), they are fun for
teachers and students (74%) and they provide a powerful learning tool
(72%). Administrators answered quite dierently and considered
improved social skills (43%) and increased community engagement
(64%) as major benets of school gardens. Other signicant dierences
between teachers and administrators, were that teachers perceived that
gardens increased nutrition knowledge (p<0.01), improved test scores
(p<0.01), increased parent engagement (p=0.02), are a powerful
learning tools (p=0.01), are fun for teachers and students (P<0.01) and
are an important part of the curriculum (p<0.01) at higher rates than
did administrators (Figure 4).
As can be seen in Figure 4, more than 50% of educators believed
that improved environmental awareness (71%), attitude towards school
(60%), and improvements in health and nutrition (60%) were positive
aspects of the garden program with no dierences between groups.
Student behavior changes since the establishment of their school
garden were also observed. e most frequently reported change was
that students showed a greater interest in eating healthier foods (60%).
A higher proportion of HU teachers indicated that students were more
engaged in school (51.2%) when compared to LU teachers (27.6%)
(p<0.05), and combined teacher data on school engagement was more
frequently reported (43.2%) than among administrators (20.8%)
(p<0.05) (Figure 4).
When educators were asked ‘what skills have you seen students
acquire through the use of your school garden’, the majority selected
the ability to recognize dierent vegetables (71%), followed by the
Page 4 of 7
J Nutr Food Sci
ISSN:2155-9600 JNFS, an open access journal Volume 6 • Issue 2 • 1000465
Citation:
Practices, Resources, Benefits and Barriers. J Nutr Food Sci 6: 465. doi: 10.4172/2155-9600.1000465
(2016) Educators’ Perceptions Associated with School Garden Programs in Clark County, Nevada:
Tomomi M, Jennifer P, Timothy B
ability to understand and complete gardening activities (63%), concern
for the environment (63%), and knowledge of gardening activities such
as soil/composting/insects/irrigation systems (64%).
Figure 4: e perceived benets of incorporating gardens into school curriculum in Clark County school district.
Discussion
While our study supported ndings from previous studies regarding
the use of school gardens, the most interesting ndings highlighted the
dierence in perceptions between teachers and administrators, and
teachers based on time spend in the garden regarding important
resources for garden instruction and perceived benets of school
gardens [16,20-22].
e dierences noted between administrator and teacher responses
may be the most important, and, concerning. Because these two
groups largely did not agree upon the perceived benets accrued by the
students as a result of exposure to school gardens, it is reasonable to
assume that they also have diering expectations. Such dierences
could lead to misunderstandings about why valuable classroom time is
spent in the gardens, and nancial support from administrators for the
gardens could be withdrawn if this misunderstanding should persist.
Our nding that teachers and administrators, again largely did not
agree on the times of day that the gardens are used supports the notion
that these two groups are not on the same page” in terms of when and
why class time is used in the gardens.
It is also interesting that teachers and administrators diered on
school garden’s inuence on tests. us it is clear that research should
be done assessing any inuence that the gardens might have on these
tests, if any. Should test score improvements be observed subsequent to
school garden exposure it is likely that garden use would be expanded
with the possibility of being institutionalized as a teaching method?
Only 4-5% of teachers indicated that administrative support was a
barrier to using the school garden. is is interesting because most
teachers report receiving support, even though there is not agreement
on the benets of and barriers to spending time in school gardens.
Again, this suggests that unless the groups come to agreement on these
issues, the support that teachers now report may dwindle.
One step that teachers might take would be to invite administrators
into the gardens to observe the learning that takes place in that setting.
It is also imperative that research be conducted that could potentially
provide evidence of benets that take place in the gardens. is
information can be presented to administrators to justify the time and
money spent in that setting. e research should not only address
academic learning, but utilitarian benets such as incidental physical
activity done in the process of gardening should also be investigated.
Items that inquired about perceived teacher needs to operate successful
garden also elicited interesting information. Educators would like to
see curricula developed that connect garden instruction to common
core English/Language Arts and Math, and to Next Generation Science
Page 5 of 7
J Nutr Food Sci
ISSN:2155-9600 JNFS, an open access journal Volume 6 • Issue 2 • 1000465
Citation:
Practices, Resources, Benefits and Barriers. J Nutr Food Sci 6: 465. doi: 10.4172/2155-9600.1000465
(2016) Educators’ Perceptions Associated with School Garden Programs in Clark County, Nevada:
Tomomi M, Jennifer P, Timothy B
Standards. is is not unexpected because these are the most
frequently taught subjects in the gardens. is nding supports the
work of Skelly and Bradley who found that educators need additional
materials to help them eectively teach science lessons in gardens [22].
ere was also signicant dierence based on time spent in the garden,
with HU teachers more likely to want professional development to
connect the garden to Next Generation Science Standards. is is
possibly because teachers that spend more time in the garden are more
likely to teach a larger variety of subjects while there, and they would
especially like to improve their science knowledge.
Teachers and administrators also diered on the resources needed
to support academic instruction in the gardens. Teacher training was
selected most frequently by teachers as the most needed resource,
while administrators indicated that funding was most important.
Graham and colleague found similar dierences between teachers and
principals in California [16,20]. is dierence may however be
nuanced. It is possible that teachers and administrators do not disagree
on this issue; rather, it may be a matter of viewpoint. Teachers could be
responding to their immediate classroom needs, while principals may
see it in a dierent context. Administrators may fully agree that more
resources and training are needed, but that funding will be needed to
provide them.
Strength of this study that none of the previous studies assessed was
the perceived benets of using school gardens. is question produced
a number of signicant dierences between teachers and
administrators, with the teachers selecting the following benets more
oen: increase nutrition knowledge, improve test scores, increase
parent engagement, provide a powerful learning tools, gardens are fun
for teachers and students, and gardens are an important part of the
curriculum. Teachers may have perceived more benets related to
school gardens because they encounter the benets rst hand. ey are
with the students when they learn and experience the garden so they
can directly perceive the positive outcomes. On the other hand,
administrators are likely to be more removed from the garden and its
eect on students. Again, it may be important for administrators to
experience the impact of the garden rst hand to understand their
value.
ere were also signicant dierences in the answers between HU
and LU teachers regarding what changes they had seen in the student’s
behavior. HU teachers were more likely to indicate that school
engagement was enhanced compared to LU teachers. is nding
suggests that benets may not be seen until a threshold of time is spent
in the gardens. However, because the amount of time to be spent in the
gardens was not randomly assigned, it is possible that HU teachers are
more venturesome and possibly more eective teachers than LU
teachers. It is also possible that HU teachers are more committed to
using gardens as a teaching modality and are more apt to notice and
report positive student behaviors, and attribute these dierences to the
gardens. Qualitative data indicated that HU made comments such as ,
“e students love going out to the garden and the excitement of
learning outside continues throughout the day., “e garden is a great
teaching tool”, and “e garden has opened the students up to the idea
of gardening and has introduced them to dierent types of produce.
e most frequently identied barriers to using school gardens
were: lack of time, lack of experience with gardening and lack of
training. ese ndings are consistent with other studies indicating
that teachers may need data and research ndings to eectively
advocate for permission to spend more time in the gardens as well as
request garden training [16,20].
e primary limitation of this study was that participants were
selected from only a few schools from CCSD. us, the results may not
be generalizable to other schools in the CCSD or to school garden
programs in other states. is study may have also had selection bias
due to preference and interest in school gardens of some educators.
Teachers interested in school gardens may have been more likely to
participate in the survey than teachers with no interest in school
gardens. Teachers and administrators were not necessarily from the
same schools.
Implications for schools
e number of school garden programs has increased in the United
States and teachers have more opportunities to provide outdoor,
hands-on lessons for their students. School garden programs appear to
provide several health and educational benets to students and
teachers are aware that the garden can be a powerful learning tool. In
addition, the results of this study indicate that teachers need additional
professional development to improve their garden-related knowledge
as well as administrator support. Dierences in perceived benets as
well as necessary resources were found between teachers and
administrators. Administrators could benet from spending time in
the gardens to observe the learning that takes place in that setting and
its benets. is could lead to greater administrator support for
funding of gardens, spending class time teaching in gardens and
teacher training for more eective use of the garden. Teacher interest
and administrator support are important components of a successful
school garden. In order for children to learn and fully experiences the
garden, their teachers must be interested in the garden and
administrator supportive of the garden, rst.
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ISSN:2155-9600 JNFS, an open access journal Volume 6 • Issue 2 • 1000465
Citation:
Practices, Resources, Benefits and Barriers. J Nutr Food Sci 6: 465. doi: 10.4172/2155-9600.1000465
(2016) Educators’ Perceptions Associated with School Garden Programs in Clark County, Nevada:
Tomomi M, Jennifer P, Timothy B
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Page 7 of 7
J Nutr Food Sci
ISSN:2155-9600 JNFS, an open access journal Volume 6 • Issue 2 • 1000465
Citation:
Practices, Resources, Benefits and Barriers. J Nutr Food Sci 6: 465. doi: 10.4172/2155-9600.1000465
(2016) Educators’ Perceptions Associated with School Garden Programs in Clark County, Nevada:
Tomomi M, Jennifer P, Timothy B
... Када је реч о истраживањима заснованим на перцепцијама везаним за школске баштенске програме, постоји одређен број истраживача који су дали свој допринос на овом пољу (Hilgers, Haynes & Olson, 2008;Bowker & Tearle, 2007;Graham, Beall, Lussier, Mclaughlin & Zidenberg-Cherr, 2005;Murakami, Pharr & Bungum, 2016;Akoumianaki-Ioannidou, Paraskevopoulou &Tachou, 2016). ...
... У контексту испитивања перцепција везаних за школске баштенске програме, могу се споменути две студије настале током 2016. године (Murakami et al., 2016;Akoumianaki-Ioannidou et al., 2016). ...
... Првом студијом група истраживача желела је да прикаже каква је тренутна пракса директора и наставника, да утврде перцепције о предностима и баријерама школских башта, као и да дају свој допринос по питању ресурса потребних за успешно функционисање школских башта (Murakami et al., 2016). Када се говори о потребним ресурсима, већина наставника истиче наставничку обуку као важан ресурс (61%), али такође сматрају важним и финансирање и приступ баштенском курикулуму, док највећи број директора (71%) сматра да је то пре свега -финансирање. ...
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