Garden-based education is a philosophical orientation to teaching and learning that uses gardens as the milieu for student engagement through meaningful and relevant curricular and instructional integration in schools. In addition to their direct academic appeal in raising test scores and grades, particularly in science, language arts, and math, gardens on educational campuses, spanning pre-school through high school, are also utilized by educators for a variety of other outcomes. These include motivational engagement; social, moral, and emotional development; strengthening of institutional and community bonds; vocational skills development; food literacy; healthy eating habits; and holistic growth of children and youth. Moreover, garden-based education shows promise as a tangible and pragmatic solution to address problems of disaffection and disengagement among youth that has resulted in a school dropout crisis in many places. While specific to higher education, farm-based education and agriculture-based education that focus on growing food have parallel agendas. The vast array of outcomes linked with garden-based education may seem impressive. However, systematic research studies of garden-based education across sites to measure educational impact are missing, largely due to their marginalized status and the decentralized and localized nature of program implementation and professional training.
While the idea of including gardens on educational campuses to grow food or to serve as a means of outdoor and nature education is not new, since the 1990s, there has been a surge of interest in using garden-based education across countries and continents. With its accessibility on school grounds, garden-based education intersects with parallel movements such as outdoor education, place-based education, experiential education, nature-based education, environmental education, and sustainability education. Manifested in a variety of grassroots practices that include slow food, community supported agriculture, edible schoolyards, global roots, indigenous cultural gardens, learning gardens, lifelab, living classrooms, multicultural school gardens, urban harvest, and more, gardens will likely continue to be of significance in education as there are growing uncertainties globally about food security and health matters related to climate change. Despite high stakes, standardized tests, and accountability measures that pose challenges to educators and proponents of school gardens in public schools, research shows their promise as laboratories for innovation and academic learning. Garden-based education would benefit if informed by longitudinal and large-scale research studies that demonstrate instructional and curricular rigor and integration and impact on learning outcomes. Drawing on critical and posthumanist theories that question the nature of schooling, and explicitly addressing issues of race, class, and perspectives of marginalized and indigenous scholars and practitioners would bring further credence. Practice-embedded research and co-production of knowledge that accepts complexity and conjunctive thinking, while also addressing culturally responsive pedagogy across socio-economic status, would enhance the viability of this growing movement.
John P. Miller
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. Please check back later for the full article.
Holistic education as a field of inquiry began in the 1980s. Prior to this time, this field was referred to as humanistic education, confluent education, affective education, or transpersonal education. The work of Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow inspired many educators working in these areas. In 1988 The Holistic Education Review under the editorship of Ron Miller was first published along with The Holistic Curriculum by John Miller. However, as a field of practice, holistic education can first be found in indigenous education. Historically, Socrates, Rousseau, Pestalozzi, Froebel, Bronson Alcott, and Tolstoy can be viewed as working within a holistic frame.
What is that frame? It is educating the whole person: body, mind, and spirit. Today, at every level, education focuses on skills and a narrow view of the intellect. The body receives little attention while the spiritual life of the student is ignored. This approach views the student as a brain on a stick. In contrast, the holistic curriculum attempts to reach the head, hands, and heart of the student.
The other main principle of holistic education is connectedness. Connectedness is one of the fundamental realities of nature. In contrast, the curriculum at every level, except perhaps for kindergarten, is fragmented as knowledge is broken down into courses, units, lessons, and bits of information. Rarely are there attempts to show how knowledge is interconnected. Holistic education seeks to be in harmony with how things actually are by focusing on connections. Six connections are at the core of the holistic curriculum: connections to the earth, community, subject integration, intuition/logic, body/mind, and soul. There are many models of holistic education in practice. They range from more structured approaches such as Waldorf education to schools such as Summerhill and Sudbury Valley that give students a great deal of choice. Despite these differences, each of these schools views the child as a whole human being.