Garden-based learning is an educational strategy that utilizes school gardens to supplement instruction in a variety of disciplines. School gardens provide an atmosphere that incorporates hands-on activities and strengthens academic, personal, and social skills. In addition, school gardens allow children to develop life skills in areas such as nutrition, leadership, and decision making. CNS research includes the development and evaluation of garden-enhanced nutrition education curricula and programs.
Benefits of Garden-Based Learning for Children
- Improves knowledge of nutrition, food preferences, and consumption of fruits and vegetables [1,2,3]
- Allows for the integration of multiple subject areas
- Enhances overall academic achievement [4,5]
- Provides children with understanding of agriculture and the environment [4,5]
- Improves life skills, self-esteem, social skills and behavior 
CNS Garden-Based Learning Resources
- Nutrition to Grow On (Grades 4-6)
Nutrition to Grow On is an innovative curriculum created by Dr. Sheri Zidenberg-Cherr and Jennifer Morris for grades four through six that offers teachers a direct link between the garden and nutrition education. Nine lessons are designed to teach children and their families about nutrition by relating each lesson to a garden activity. The curriculum uses the garden to integrate disciplines, including science, mathematics, language arts, history, environmental studies, nutrition and health, while reinforcing California academic content standards.
- Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners
Get information and advice about setting up and maintaining a vegetable garden. The Master Gardener Program provides the public with research-based information about horticulture and pest management. Master Gardeners also offer free public workshops. To find a local Master Gardener, please visit the Master Gardeners web site.
- UC Davis School Gardening Program
The School Gardening Program provides hands-on trainings and resources for school gardeners. Content covers establishing successful school workshops gardens, using garden environments for effective teaching, enhancing the connections between gardens and good nutrition, and understanding the role of agriculture in our food system. For more information about this program, please visit the UC Davis School Gardening Program.
- A Child's Garden of Standards (Grades 2-6)
The California Department of Education offers a resource containing garden-based education activities selected from several published educational materials linked to specific academic content standards for grades two through six in science, history/social sciences, mathematics, and English language arts. A Child's Garden of Standards is available online.
- Gardens for Learning: Creating and Sustaining Your School Garden
The California School Garden Network has published a guidebook to help implement your own instructional garden: "Gardens for Learning: Creating and Sustaining Your School Garden." It's also available as a downloadable resource .
Garden-Based Learning Research at CNS
Since 2001, Dr. Sheri Zidenberg-Cherr and CNS researchers have been focused on developing and evaluating nutrition education curricula for school-aged children, which often emphasizes garden-enhanced learning strategies. To view research articles published by CNS researchers, please visit our research page.
School Garden Slideshow
To view photos of CNS activities, including garden-based learning in action, please visit our photo page.
- Morris, J.L. and S. Zidenberg-Cherr. (2002). "Garden-enhanced nutrition curriculum improves fourth-grade school children's knowledge of nutrition and preferences for some vegetables." J Am Diet Assoc. 102(1): p. 91-93.
- McAleese, J.D. and L.L. Rankin. (2007). "Garden-based nutrition education affects fruit and vegetable consumption in sixth-grade adolescents." J Am Diet Assoc. 107(4): p. 662-665.
- Graham, H. and S. Zidenberg-Cherr. (2005). "California teachers perceive school gardens as an effective nutritional tool to promote healthful eating habits." J Am Diet Assoc.
- Lieberman, G.A., and L. Hoody. (1998). "Closing the acheivement gap: using the environment as an integrating context for learning." Sacramento, CA: CA State Education and Environment Roundtable.
- Dirks, A.E. and K. Orvis. (2005). "An evaluyation of the Junior Master Gardener Program in third grade classrooms. HortTechnology." 4 (1) 77-80.
- Waliczek, T.M. (2001). " The effect of school gardens on children's interpersonal relationships and attitudes toward school." HortTechnology. 11(3): 466-468.
On our External Resources page we provide links to external sites with content that may be of use to individuals seeking information about curriculum related to nutrition in schools.