Wild leaves and narrow stems : case study of a school garden in transition
Elementary school gardens have grown popular and abundant in recent years, and are established with goals ranging from addressing childhood obesity to improving test scores. With this garden-based learning movement come questions of school garden efficacy in achieving stated goals, as well as school garden sustainability and longevity in an ever more standardized public education environment. The purpose of this qualitative case study was to examine how the transition of control of a garden-based educational program from independent non-profit to school district affects various elements of the school garden, including participant perceptions and motivations, organizational mission, and teaching methods and philosophies. Through extensive observational data collection, participant interviews, focus groups, and artifact analysis, themes emerged and descriptions of the case before, during, and after the transition of control were developed. The story of the school garden transition was one of negotiations and trade offs. Garden educators perceived a legitimation of their place in the school as a result of the transition, but also perceived constraints placed upon their curricular and pedagogical freedom by the school district. While before the transition the garden program was seen as a challenger of restrictive school policies and educational paradigms, after the transition it adopted more of the qualities and procedures of the school district. Garden-based learning researchers and practitioners are challenged to consider the nuance and implications of these trade offs in program development and strategic planning.
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