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"Sowing and growing" life skills through garden-based learning to reengage disengaged youth


Garden-based intervention program promotes positive learning and behavioral outcomes for students disengaged from school

This case study examined a garden-based learning (GBL) program involving three key collaborators: Western Sydney University; Royal Botanic Gardens (RBG); and a public school suspension center in South West Sydney. The program – referred to as Outdoor Links To Learning (OL2L) — was designed for students from disadvantaged communities who are on long suspension from their home schools. The focus was on providing learning and behavioral support to the students to improve their chances of success when they returned to their home school.

OL2L operated for two 10-week terms during 2015. Participating students attended for varied periods of time depending on their attendance at the suspension center. Over the course of the two terms, approximately 18 upper primary and 30 high school students attended from six primary and 12 high schools. The intervention program included designing, building, and maintaining a garden to the point of harvesting, cooking, and consuming the produce. Data for this pilot study was collected before, during, and after program implementation through fieldwork and semi-structured interviews with students, community educators, and teachers. The field work included observations of student engagement and in-situ discussions. Additional data focused on attendance and academic performance of the students while at the suspension center.

The benefits of the program for the students included enhanced well-being and health literacy, the development of personal management and social skills needed for successful functioning in society, active engagement in an alternative educational environment, connecting with adults, and increased self-esteem.

This study demonstrates positive associations between garden-based-learning (GBL) within an educational setting and engagement of students, especially students considered to be disengaged in the school system. This study also reinforces the value of school-community partnerships and the effectiveness of role models and mentors in supporting student achievement, as relationships developed through this GBL program were critical to its success. These findings suggest that GBL can contribute to the development of a more just society by meeting the diverse learning needs of children and youth in our schools and communities.


Truong, S., Gray, T., Ward, K., (2016). "Sowing and growing" life skills through garden-based learning to reengage disengaged youth. LEARNing Landscapes, 10(1), 361-385.


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