School gardens become teaching tools
School gardens used for instruction are on the rise nationwide, and with them, student engagement and test scores, according to a recent study.
The nonprofit REAL School Gardens works with corporations to build outdoor classrooms at low-income schools. The gardens include 150 square feet of vegetable beds, perennial and herb beds, rainwater collection systems, composting bins, earth science stations, and animal habitats.
The organization also provides teacher training for three years after the garden is built, to ensure it is used regularly for instruction.
Over the past 12 years, REAL School Gardens has worked with more than 100 schools and trained 3,500 teachers.
Some 94 percent of teachers in the program reported seeing increased engagement from their students, according to an independent evaluation conducted by PEER Associates. Partner schools have also seen 12 to 15 percent increases in standardized test score pass rates, the organization says.