Physical activity and student perceptions of learning and nutrition in the school garden
Holloway, Alicia Lynn Haire
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School gardens are increasingly popular, and have been shown to have numerous academic, emotional, and even nutritional benefits to students. This study seeks to address gaps in research in regards to physical activity and nutrition. While many studies have shown student increase in fruit and vegetable consumption, preference, and student willingness to try fruits and vegetable, not much is known about the student experience and perspective. A PhotoVoice project, and follow up student and teacher interviews were used to analyze what students perceive as important learning and doing activities in the garden, and special attention was given to how the food produced in the garden was discussed. The researcher found that teachers create a garden culture through modeling social ideals, and that student’s view of food in the garden is defined through the lens of the school garden culture. A number of non-nutrition themes also emerged from the analysis. In addition to the PhotoVoice study, a physical activity study using accelerometers was conducted to determine how school gardens impacted physical activity on school garden days compared to non-school garden days. PARAGON direct observation tool was also used to document student physical activity levels and movements. Researchers found that students increased their MVPA level by an average of 9.6 minutes on days participating in school garden activities. Overall, school gardens are a valuable tool for encouraging healthy eating and increasing physical activity within the school day.