Children who grow up in poverty are less likely to graduate high school, enter college and find economic stability. REAL School Gardens believes the right educational opportunities – ones that engage and motive children to learn – can break this cycle. The REAL School Gardens Program builds learning gardens and offers teacher training to improve academic engagement and performance in low-income elementary schools. Since its launch, REAL School Gardens has partnered with 92 low-income schools, and preliminary findings show that 84% of students experiencing hands-on academic lessons in a REAL School Garden report high levels of engagement, specifically in math in science. Another study demonstrated that REAL School Gardens’ partner schools exhibit, on average, standardized science test score pass rates 5.5% higher than non-partner schools. This article explores how programs such as REAL School Gardens can provide low-income families with access to educational enrichment that will help them succeed.
Key Take Away Points
- REAL School Gardens is helping to break the link between poverty and educational achievement by improving the educational opportunities for children of low-income households.
- Building learning gardens in low-income elementary schools and then providing extensive teacher training can increase student academic engagement and achievement. Preliminary findings show that 84% of students experiencing hands-on academic lessons in a REAL school garden report high levels of engagement, specifically in math and science. Another study demonstrated that REAL School Gardens’ partner schools exhibit, on average, standardized science test score pass rates 5.5% higher than non-partner schools.
- The REAL School Gardens program has a direct positive impact on children’s health, both now and in the future. The health benefits include increased exposure to fresh foods and physical activity during the school day which can result in developing healthier habits.
With two decades of experience in education and conservation, Jeanne McCarty joined REAL School Gardens in October 2007, to lead its national expansion. Prior to joining REAL School Gardens, Jeanne spent more than eight years as vice president and director of the Jane Goodall Institute’s Roots & Shoots program, a global youth service program focused on conservation. In this position, she helped fulfill Dr. Jane Goodall’s dream of creating a powerful force for positive change: a network of young people in communities all around the world empowered to make a difference. Her interest in education and student engagement began while she was director of Undergraduate Programs for the Department of African American Studies at the University of Maryland. Jeanne holds an M.A. in American Studies from the University of Maryland and a B.A. in American Studies, Summa Cum Laude, from the University of Southern Mississippi.
"REAL School Gardens Program: Learning Gardens and Teacher Training to Improve Student Engagement and Academic Performance in Low-Performing Elementary Schools,"
Journal of Applied Research on Children: Informing Policy for Children at Risk: Vol. 4
, Article 20.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.library.tmc.edu/childrenatrisk/vol4/iss2/20