Date of Award

Spring 5-9-2014

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)

Department

Public Health

First Advisor

Bruce Perry

Second Advisor

Jessica Howell Pratt

Abstract

In the last two decades, school gardening programs including interdisciplinary curriculum have been on the rise across the United States and abroad. Many outcomes have been researched related to school gardening programs including children’s academic achievements, socialization through gardening activities, food preference and nutritional outcomes, and environmental impacts. Teachers often carry the greatest weight of responsibility in school gardening programs. While current literature evidences child outcomes by evaluating children, parents, teachers and principles, in this project, teachers specifically were able to identify barriers and concerns before and after teacher training workshops in a pilot program in Atlanta, Georgia and express their levels of experience as indicators of commitment and willingness to implement the program in their classrooms. This research provided an opportunity to assess how well the training addressed perceived barriers to outdoor teaching.

Principles of self-­‐efficacy and social cognitive theory were used to guide the development of survey tools in this evaluation. A logic model was created to identify the inputs, activities, short, medium-­‐, and long-­‐term outcomes and overall impact of the Learning Gardens program to be used in program implementation and expansion and to keep goals in sight, providing measurable evaluation steps to monitor progress. Surveys were created to evaluate the efficacy of teacher training and how teachers perceived barriers and self-­‐efficacy during their first year participating in the school gardens program. Surveys were given online and in-­‐person before and after training and after the first year of program participation. Data was collected, analyzed and presented. Curriculum tool kits were prepared for use in the classroom.

Results indicated that with training, barriers to teaching outdoors decreased; perceived self-­‐efficacy and thus the drive and motivation to continue forward movement in the Learning Gardens program increased. Once teachers became aware of their goals, and how they would be able to achieve them together, they gained understanding of how the program would be beneficial to their students. These results stress the importance of teacher training and the provision of tools and resources linked directly to standards-­‐based curriculum as critical components in the implementation of successful school garden programming.

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