The Association Between Duration of School Garden Exposure and Self-Reported Learning and School Connectedness
When students feel connected to their school, they experience positive health and academic outcomes. In contrast, school disengagement is a predictor of dropout, delinquency, and substance use. School garden programming has the potential to help children achieve academic outcomes and feel connected to their school. Unfortunately, most school garden research has been conducted with white, affluent study participants. We describe the results of a secondary analysis utilizing data from an evaluation of a university-supported community school garden program (CSGP). Using a cross-sectional survey study design, we examined the impact of school garden programming in Title I schools on primarily Latino/a (Hispanic) elementary student self-reported learning and feelings of school connectedness by comparing students with ≤1 year exposure to those with >1 year. Social cognitive theory formed the conceptual basis for the analysis. Duration of school garden exposure did not have a significant association with self-reported learning or feelings of school connectedness. Regardless of past exposure, fifth-grade students, females, and those who identify as Latino/a (Hispanic) felt that school garden programming improved their learning. Latino/a (Hispanic) students who participate in school garden programming may also feel a greater sense of connection to their teachers and peers at school. Qualitative results demonstrated that most students enjoyed spending time in the garden and indicated that participating in the program helped them learn new things and feel connected to their school. If individuals who may be disadvantaged because of systemic racism, such as Latino/a (Hispanic) students, can benefit from school garden programming, such interventions should be further investigated and prioritized.