Theses Doctoral

Exploring New York City School Gardens

Gardner, Katherine

Objective: Previous studies have explored impacts of school gardening on students and detailed broad components needed for successful gardens, but little is known about how gardens are maintained, connected academically, valued, and sustained over time. The purpose of this observational study is to explore how school gardens become institutionalized and create an implementation framework that can be used to establish gardens that are well integrated into curriculum and culture.
Study Design, Setting, Participants, Intervention: A stratified, purposeful sample of school gardeners at 21 Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Bronx schools completed a survey, semi-structured interviews, and concept mapping exercises during the 2013-2014 school year. Additional data collected were student observations, garden images, and related documents.
Outcome Measures and Analysis: The survey was analyzed using descriptive statistics. Interviews, photos, observations and documents were qualitatively analyzed through thematic coding, pattern matching, explanation building, and cross-case synthesis. Concept mapping exercises was analyzed quantitatively by entering participants’ sorted statements into a similarity matrix to conduct multi-dimensional scaling and hierarchical cluster analysis and qualitatively by thematic coding.
Results: Survey, interview and observation data explicated how school gardeners used implementation strategies to overcome barriers, create new learning opportunities for students, and facilitate permeation of gardening into the school culture. The quantitative concept mapping analysis resulted in four school garden domains (resources and support, physical garden, student experience, and school community) and 19 domain components. Qualitative analysis of sorted statements and interviews elucidated relationships between each domain’s components and also the domains to each other. An integration of all data produced a rich description, supplemented with images, of each school garden’s unique and varied characteristics, activities and operation. A synthesis of these analyses produced the School Garden Integration Framework (SGIF), which visually depicts how and when to implement each domain and all components to maximize garden integration. Additionally, a scaled tool (Scale) was created to capture and rate varying degrees of domain and component integration.
Conclusion and Implications: The SGIF, Scale, and implementation strategies that emerged from this study can be used by schools or policymakers to strengthen existing or establish new well-integrated school gardening programs.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Behavioral Nutrition
Thesis Advisors
Contento, Isobel R.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 12, 2015


Full title: Exploring New York City School Gardens: The Development of the School Garden Integration Framework and Strategies of Operationalization by Well-Integrated Gardens Using a Sequential, Transformative Mixed Methods Approach