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Sustainable transitions, learning and wellbeing through School Gardens


   School of Education

  , , Ms Catherine Francis  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

There is increasing evidence that natural outdoor environments have a number of positive impacts – on health and wellbeing, on children’s learning and on environmental identity and pro-environmental behaviours. The evidence has accrued from a range of studies examining natural environments ranging from parks and green spaces to wilderness expeditions. Amongst this range of environments gardens, particularly food growing gardens, are increasing in popularity as spaces for engaging children and young people in healthy productive activity. The revival of community gardening has been associated with 'sustainable transitions', as a form of collective engagement to reduce carbon emissions and increase equality. In this context, gardening has been associated with a renovated emphasis on addressing real-life concerns and taking collective actions, also in education. 

Children and young people's participation in school gardens has been associated with nutritional awareness, increase in vegetable uptake and general appreciation of diverse, healthy foods. More recently, studies have focussed on well-being through learning outdoors along with improved motivation to study science subjects, with benefits most readily traced in groups which do not normally enjoy classroom activities. Food growing relate to a myriad of themes; from intercultural education to ethics, with studies pointing to food growing as a driver for community cohesion and intergenerational equity.

So we see that the concept of gardening in educational contexts is associated with a range of benefits and possibilities, which are particularly pertinent as governments recognise the importance of outdoor learning in post-Covid times, opening up the possibilities, and strengthening the arguments for, a greater emphasis on outdoor learning in schools, particularly in areas of poverty.

This proposal is broad in its range of possibilities but all involve focusing on the food growing school garden as a focus for potential exploration of a range of impacts:

a) Learning gardens as a transformative pedagogical tool

b) Gardens as a therapeutic space for mental wellbeing

c) The potentialities of gardens for intergenerational learning

d) School based food growing gardens for community engagement and regeneration

e) The development of nature connection and environmental awareness through sustainable gardening

f) Exploring school level systems in enacting the recently developed food activist framework arising from the Scottish Universities Insight Institute funded programme : https://www.scottishinsight.ac.uk/Programmes/UNGlobalGoals/FoodActivism.aspx 

Students embarking on any of these topics will have the opportunity to work with academic staff who have extensive experience of working in outdoor environments and a strong interest in gardens as educational spaces. In addition they will be introduced to voluntary organisations and community groups with existing working relationships with schools and communities in developing food growing garden spaces. 

The research will be qualitative with opportunities to explore a range of philosophical positions and methodological approaches, such as post-humanism and arts-based research methods. Successful applicants will join a vibrant community of PhD researchers and scholars in a friendly and supportive environment.


Funding Notes

Self-Funding/Externally funded students only

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