Study shows school gardens have many benefits for students and communities

Diane
Diane Crocker
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Memorial PhD student Emily Doyle spoke about her study of the school greenhouse in Harbour Grace at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University of Newfoundland in Corner Brook Friday. 

Emily Doyle’s  philosophy is that people in Newfoundland and Labrador should be producing way more of their food locally.  

Doyle is a Memorial University of Newfoundland student who is completing a PhD in community health in the faculty of medicine.

Her topic is school gardens and for the past year she has been studying the greenhouse program at St. Francis School in Harbour Grace. The St. John’s woman received some funding from Memorial’s Harris Centre for the project.

On Friday, Doyle spoke about her work at a Harris Centre Synergy Session at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University of Newfoundland’s forestry centre in Corner Brook. Her presentation was titled The Benefits of School Gardens: A Case Study of the St. Francis School Greenhouse. The event was attended by about 10 people and followed online by another three to five.

“The purpose of the study was to investigate perceived benefits of school gardening and motivations for gardening. Impacts for not just students but for also for teachers, community members and the wider community,” said Doyle following the session.

Through the study, Doyle said she documented the 21-year history of the St. Francis greenhouse that was initially built as a place for students to learn entrepreneurial skills.

“But over the years it’s taken on all kinds of other meanings and significance in terms of providing kids with healthy eating, with environmental education, with enhanced entrepreneurial skills.”

She said the study showed that there is a wide range of benefits for students involved with the greenhouse in terms of enhanced learning.

Teachers talked of the benefits of hands on learning and how students were able to retain information better because they had more meaning associated with the experiences they were having.

“They took ownership over their projects,” said Doyle.

She said teachers also found that students who were not typical paper and pen students really excelled in the greenhouse.

“Also students learned about agriculture, so where food comes from, the fact that you can produce food in Newfoundland,” she said.

Doyle found the benefits of the greenhouse to the community included exposing students to new industry and diversification and that it served as a resource for the community. She said there were also health benefits from the food grown and social benefits from the interaction between the students and the community.

Doyle’s plan now is to use the study as a comparison as she seeks out other school greenhouses and gardens across the province to research and to provide support and evidence of the potential benefits of school gardens. She also hopes to continue the dialogue with St. Francis and to help the school use her research to its advantage.

Organizations: Memorial University of Newfoundland, Francis School, Harris Centre

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Harbour Grace, Corner Brook

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