An ethnographic case study of the enactment of action gardening in an urban middle school agricultural science class
Rudolph, Heather Ann
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The purpose of this study was to examine garden based science learning in an eighth grade agricultural science class. This ethnographic case study sought to understand how a group of eighth grade students and their teacher experienced enactment of the theory of action gardening as they worked to relate agricultural science concepts to their lives, including supports and constraints. Place conscious education (PCE) was used as a theoretical framework because it calls for a sense of agency in learning, emphasizing the importance of relevant knowledge as well as active and democratic community participation, all of which are tenets of the theory of action gardening. Data collection methods included informal and semi-structured interviews, participant observations, fieldnotes, reflective journaling between the researcher and teacher, and a separate researcher journal. Data was organized and interpreted through summative and in-progress memos, visual organization, and in-depth analysis. Five main themes are discussed: community, family and peer relationships contributed to shared common values; community supports of garden based learning (GBL) contributed to the perception of school as a valued place of learning; curriculum structured around relevancy and physical activity encouraged students' active involvement in the learning process; and GBL promoted problem solving, critical thinking and displays of student autonomy. Findings have implications for further research, particularly the need for a longitudinal study of students continuing into high school to determine how and if the theory of action gardening influences their choices and a study of how the teacher changes her enactment of the theory of action gardening with more experience in using it. Implications for practitioners include the necessity of planning and having a support system in place before beginning GBL curriculum. Practitioners are encouraged to embrace community diversity through engagement of willing volunteers in all aspects of GBL.