“This brings meaning and purpose to the lessons:”
Teachers’ and facilitators’ perspectives on the joys and challenges of school garden programs in south-eastern Ontario
Keywords:school garden programs, food literacy, farm-to-school, sustainability of school gardens, qualitative interviews
School garden programs (SGPs) offer students opportunities to experience and participate in the processes of nature and agriculture through hands-on learning in a wide variety of outdoor settings. Although the value of school gardens has been well documented, there is little-to-no concrete support for these programs within the public-school system itself, either at the local or the provincial level. Most programs operate through the vision and dedication of community members and organizations and/or the efforts of individual educators.
The purpose of this study is to investigate how school garden programs are implemented in a variety of educational settings, and to identify the challenges and opportunities that exist within them. Ten semi-structured, open-ended qualitative interviews were conducted in person or by video platform with teachers and community members who acted as school garden program facilitators in south eastern Ontario. Data analysis shows that SGP facilitators had 4 key motivations for implementing SGPs. These include promoting a connection to nature, fostering values of environmental awareness and stewardship, increasing food literacy skills, and introducing students to broader food system issues of inequity and social justice. The major challenges and opportunities included funding, administrative and operational supports (or lack of), partnerships, and long-term visions. The results point to the need for consistent policies, sustained and reliable funding, and other supports from the Ministry of Education.
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Copyright (c) 2023 Janette Haase, Elaine Power
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