It’s back-to-school time in the United States, and for countless children across the nation, it’s also time to get back into the school garden.
For centuries, educators and philosophers have argued that garden-based learning improves children’s intelligence and boosts their personal health. In recent years, concerns related to childhood obesity and young people’s disconnection from nature have led to a revitalized interest in the topic.
Tens of thousands of American schools have some form of school garden. Many are located on school grounds and others are run by external community partners. Most are connected to the school’s curriculum. For instance, seeds are used in science class to explain plant biology, fruits are used in social studies to teach world geography and the harvest is used in math to explore weights and measures. Some even incorporate food from the garden into the school lunch.
As a researcher and an activist, I’ve spent the better part of the last decade working to promote a healthy, equitable and sustainable food system. Through this process, I have heard bold claims made about the power of garden-based learning to meet these challenges.