Impact of School Gardening on Learning

Frances Reed, Marian Morris, Rowena Passy

10 August 2010

Following the launch of the Campaign for School Gardening in 2007, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) commissioned NFER to assess the impact of school gardening on children’s learning and behaviour. This report presents the findings from the qualitative study of a representative sample of ten schools participating in the Campaign.

Key Findings

  • The overarching aim of the Campaign is to raise the profile of gardens as a natural, sustainable resource that has the capacity to offer curricular, social and emotional benefits to pupils. The findings show that the Campaign can support schools in addressing these issues in a whole-school context.
  • The RHS Campaign for School Gardening has been successful in recruiting 11,500 primary schools. Its most noteworthy contributions have been the ways in which it has provided a focus and structure for the organisation of (often preexisting) gardens in schools, facilitating progress and recognising and rewarding their efforts. Schools have particularly welcomed the support and training that the Campaign has made available.
  • Outcomes from involving pupils in school gardening were reported as including:
    • Greater scientific knowledge and understanding
    • Enhanced literacy and numeracy, including the use of a wider vocabulary and
    • greater oracy skills
    • Increased awareness of the seasons and understanding of food production
    • Increased confidence, resilience and self-esteem
    • Development of physical skills, including fine motor skills
    • Development of a sense of responsibility
    • A positive attitude to healthy food choices
    • Positive behaviour
    • Improvements in emotional well-being.
  • School gardens have proved to be a source not only of learning outcomes for pupils, but also for other wider outcomes around both the Every Child Matters agenda and the wider duty of community cohesion. Schools had used the gardens to promote the development of active citizens as well as independent learners and had observed changes not only in the children, but in attitudes to the school within the local community.
  • Schools reported a number of key ingredients to embedding gardening into the curriculum. These included the active support of the headteacher, a key member of staff who drives the work in the garden, ensuring the amount of work is manageable, and giving the garden a high profile within the school.
  • Challenges with managing the garden within schools included the time and effort involved in developing and managing the site, funding, and involving the whole school community. Schools reported a range of both strategic and practical responses to these challenges.
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