Development of the GREEN (Garden Resources, Education, and Environment Nexus) Tool: An Evidence-Based Model for School Garden Integration

Published:April 04, 2017DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2017.02.008

      Abstract

      Background

      Researchers have established the benefits of school gardens on students’ academic achievement, dietary outcomes, physical activity, and psychosocial skills, yet limited research has been conducted about how school gardens become institutionalized and sustained.

      Objective

      Our aim was to develop a tool that captures how gardens are effectively established, integrated, and sustained in schools.

      Design

      We conducted a sequential, exploratory, mixed-methods study. Participants were identified with the help of Grow To Learn, the organization coordinating the New York City school garden initiative, and recruited via e-mail.

      Participants/setting

      A stratified, purposeful sample of 21 New York City elementary and middle schools participated in this study throughout the 2013/2014 school year. The sample was stratified in their garden budgets and purposeful in that each of the schools’ gardens were determined to be well integrated and sustained.

      Main outcome measures

      The processes and strategies used by school gardeners to establish well-integrated school gardens were assessed via data collected from surveys, interviews, observations, and concept mapping.

      Statistical analyses performed

      Descriptive statistics as well as multidimensional scaling and hierarchical cluster analysis were used to examine the survey and concept mapping data. Qualitative data analysis consisted of thematic coding, pattern matching, explanation building and cross-case synthesis.

      Results

      Nineteen components within four domains of school garden integration were found through the mixed-methods concept mapping analysis. When the analyses of other data were combined, relationships between domains and components emerged. These data resulted in the development of the GREEN (Garden Resources, Education, and Environment Nexus) Tool.

      Conclusions

      When schools with integrated and sustained gardens were studied, patterns emerged about how gardeners achieve institutionalization through different combinations of critical components. These patterns are best described by the GREEN Tool, the first framework to identify how to operationalize school gardening components and describe an evidence-based strategy of successful school garden integration.

      Keywords

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      Biography

      K. G. Burt is an assistant professor, Dietetics, Food and Nutrition Program at Lehman College, City University of New York, Bronx; at the time of the study, she was a doctoral fellow, Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education, and Policy at Teachers College Columbia University, New York, NY.

      Biography

      P. Koch is executive director, Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education, and Policy, Teachers College Columbia University, New York, NY.

      Biography

      I. Contento is the faculty director and Mary Swartz Rose Professor of Nutrition and Education, Teachers College Columbia University, New York, NY.