Effects of school gardening lessons on elementary school children's physical activity and sedentary time
Garden-based lessons may increase students’ physical activity and decrease their sedentary time without interrupting learning time
The focus of this study was on the potential of garden-based lessons for increasing physical activity and reducing sedentary time of students during the school day.
A total of 86 children from 4 different elementary schools participated in this study which extended over a period of 3 months. During this time, they participated in weekly garden-based lessons conducted by their teachers. They wore accelerometers on one garden day and one no-garden day three times during the data collection period. This arrangement allowed for a comparison of students’ physical activity levels on garden days with no-garden days. Trained research staff collected additional physical activity data during three garden sessions at each school using an adapted version of the Physical Activity Research and Assessment Tool for Garden Observation (PARAGON). This observation tool was used to capture certain physical activities (such as pushing, pulling, digging, lifting, and carrying) which an accelerometer may not record as physically active time. Observation categories of the adapted version of the PARAGON included physical activity level, garden tasks, and garden motions.
In 3 of the 4 schools, children accumulated signiﬁcantly more physical activity and signiﬁcantly less sedentary time on garden days than no-garden days. For children from these three schools, there was an average decrease of 32 minutes of sedentary time per day. Averaged across all four schools, there was an average of ten more minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity on garden days than no-garden days. On average, children spent less than 4% of garden time being sedentary. There were some gender differences in types of physical activity, with girls spending more time harvesting and weeding than boys, and boys spending more time standing compared to girls who spent more time squatting.
This study indicates that the use of school gardens as a teaching tool may increase students’ physical activity and decrease their sedentary time while at school. This research demonstrates how physical activity can be promoted in schools in a meaningful way without interrupting or decreasing learning time. Utilizing school gardens, then, can be an effective way to promote both health and learning.
Rees-Punia, E., Holloway, A., Knauft, D., Schmidt, M.D., (2017). Effects of school gardening lessons on elementary school children's physical activity and sedentary time. Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 14(12),