Gardens in a Concrete Jungle?
Students in urban environments are surrounded by concrete, glass, and brick, and I was interested in exploring programs that got them involved in the natural environment. More specifically, I began exploring this topic of urban gardens because I was interested in how urban students were able to feel a connection to their environment. In diverse schools, with many different races, ethnicities, languages, socioeconomic class etc., the one thing that all students have in common is their physical location. Here at Bowdoin, despite differences between students, we are all connected to Maine, specifically Brunswick, as a place. Part of that connection comes from our proximity to beautiful oceans, mountains, and rolling hills. I wondered, given that these expansive natural places are not as easily accessible in cities, if schools were able to create this connection in a different way. I found that schools and communities are beginning to use urban gardens as a place to bridge this natural divide.
In this course, we’ve talked about how schools are most successful when they are community spaces, and address the holistic needs of its students. I’ve found that schools’ involvement with urban gardens result in not just a community connection to place1 but also increased physical activity during the school day2, healthier diets, academic achievement 3, and awareness of local food sovereignty4. Recent studies have even showed that schools having an educational garden reduced the achievement gap between white and affluent schools and diverse and poorer schools by increasing tests scores across reading, math, and science.5 Clearly, school and community urban gardens provide a lot of benefits to students, and parents, community members and teachers have begun to take notice.
Grassroots organizations have seized urban gardens as an opportunity to provide all of these educational and active services, and the movement for having garden programs through urban schools has increased over the past few decades. Urban gardens thus provide great promise for the future of urban education as a method to provide holistic, inclusive educational services to all students. I hope that as you browse this website, you can see how different people approach community/school urban gardens very differently, and how different grassroots organizations emphasize different programming to reflect this.