The Austin Garden Landscape Project

Hoover, Amy
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The Austin Garden Landscape Project Amy Hoover, MS The University of Texas at Austin, 2020

Supervisor: Jaimie Davis, PhD, RD, Associate Professor, Department of Nutritional Sciences Co-Supervisor: Laura M. Lashinger, PhD, Assistant Professor of Instruction, Department of Nutritional Sciences

Background: Gardening programs have been utilized by schools for over thirty years to provide an outdoor hands-on science learning experience, teach nutrition knowledge and food safety practices, and promote environmental awareness. Numerous studies over the past two decades have shown that school gardening programs improve dietary intake, academic performance and numerous other health parameters. Despite the amount of substantiated benefits associated with school gardening education integration, few studies have systematically evaluated sustainability factors essential to the success of these programs. Objective: The overall goal of this study is to evaluate the challenges and best practices predicting successful sustainability of school gardens in the Greater Austin area. Methods: We assembled a panel of experts to develop surveys targeting administrators and teachers to assess fundamental barriers and strategies relevant to school gardening programs, as well as an observational evaluation tool of the physical garden landscape. We administered these 35-item surveys to 523 school teachers and 174 administrators and completed the observation logs from 100 schools across the Austin area. Descriptive and frequency analyses will be run to identify the top barriers reported and strategies implemented. Subsequently, schools will be categorized based on status of the physical gardens, teacher usage/integration of garden, and number of children using the garden, to categorize schools as thriving vs. struggling garden programs. Regression analysis will be run to assess which strategies/barriers predict thriving garden programs. Conclusion: The results of this study will identify key components needed to maintain and sustain successful school gardening programs.