Enrich LA with Tomas O'Grady
Thank you Enrich LA with Tomas O'Grady for creating a beautiful new garden at our school and providing volunteers to teach students outdoor gardening!
A Healthy Nutrition Environment: Linking Education, Activity, and Food through School Gardens
Nutrition is an essential building block for student success. Healthy, active, and well-nourished children are more likely to attend school and are more prepared and motivated to learn. While the primary responsibility of schools is to foster academic achievement, schools have an exceptional opportunity to guide children toward healthier lifestyles by creating a healthy nutrition environment. State Superintendent Jack O’Connell has made the health and fitness of California’s students one of his top priorities. He is working with the Governor, the Legislature, the State Board of Education and other organizations to ensure that schools create an environment that supports students in developing lifelong habits of nutrition and fitness.
Impact on Children’s Health and Nutrition
Schools with a healthy nutrition environment provide dynamic settings, such as a school garden, that foster improved student health. Students who participate in school garden projects discover fresh food, make healthier food choices, and are physically active. Anecdotal evidence is strong — teachers relate that students eat what they grow. Research corroborates this — children who plant and harvest their own fruits and vegetables are more likely to eat them.
The California Department of Health Services evaluated the impact of the 5-A Day Power Play! Campaign, a large-scale social marketing initiative. Results of the study indicated that students who had experienced gardening not only ate more fruits and vegetables at baseline, but also demonstrated greater increases in consumption as a result of the intervention.
In other nutrition education projects, elementary children studied nutrition in the classroom while growing vegetables outdoors in their own gardens. Students’ nutrition knowledge increased, as did their preference for vegetables. Improving the desire to taste vegetables is a first step in developing healthier eating patterns.
An evaluation of The Edible Schoolyard program shows similar results. Students who made the greatest gains in overall understanding of ecological principles made significantly greater gains in the numbers of serving of fruits and vegetables they reported eating.
Impact on Academic Achievement
Educators find that using the environment as an integrating context to learning creates the framework for interdisciplinary, collaborative, student-centered, experiential, and engaged learning. Environment-based education employs natural ecosystems as a context for learning. The “environment” may be a river, a forest, a city park, or a garden carved out of an asphalt playground.
Five major studies have documented the educational efficacy of using the environment as an integrated context for learning. These studies have examined the implementation of environment-based education at 66 schools, including California schools.
In 1999, the California Department of Education (CDE) commissioned a second study of the educational efficacy of environment-based education. The study examined eight pairs of environment-based education treatment and control schools/programs in California. Data from this California study combined with data from the prior study found that over 77 percent of students in environment-based education programs scored higher than their peers across all standardized tests and had higher grade point averages.
The literature not only supports the role of environment-based education in academic achievement, but also finds that nutrition education and nutrition programs that are linked to school gardens improve academic achievement. One of the strongest justifications for nutrition education, nutrition programs, and nutrition services in schools is the effect on students’ cognitive performance and their educational achievement.