School gardens and garden based learning not only is becoming increasingly popular in the United States, but in different parts of the world. Prominent personalities such as Maria Montessori have supported the implementation of ‘natural settings’ for learning.
What do the studies say?
Impact on Academic Achievement
In one well-evaluated study on experiential education, reported in Closing the Achievement Gap: Using the Environment as an Integrative Context for Learning (Lieberman & Hoody, 1998), the State Education and Environment Roundtable, consisting of 12 states’ education agencies, sought to identify successful environment based educational programs and conduct evaluations in various domain areas. The documented impacts of the programs were: · better performance on standardized achievement tests of reading, writing, math, social studies and science; · reduced classroom management and discipline problems; · increased attention and enthusiasm for learning; and · greater pride and ownership of accomplishments.
The report released by The National Garden Association also describes the benefits of working in a garden.
According to a Texas study, third, fourth and fifth grade students who participated in a youth gardening program scored significantly higher on science achievement tests compared to students that did not experience any garden-based learning activities. South Carolina teachers have studied third and fourth grade summer school students and found that those working in the gardening program made significant, measurable gains in reading, reading comprehension, spelling, and written expression. Gardening has also been shown to foster life skills such as cooperation, leadership, and responsibility.
University of Washington publication states that Nature can provide both background and objects for play and learning.19Among older children, exposure to nature encourages exploration and building activities, which can improve problem-solving abilities, ability to respond to changing contexts, as well as participation in group decision-making. Younger children often use outdoor settings having plants, stones, and sticks as props for imaginative play, which is key to social and cognitive development.20 One study of children’s play found that a cluster of shrubs was the most popular place to play on an elementary schoolyard because it could be transformed into many imaginary places: a house, spaceship, etc. 
How Can We Begin Growing Garden Based Learning Benefits in Our Community
In recent times, children have less opportunity to be outdoors and this does have a significant effect on their overall mental health and learning skills.
Gardens, as you can guess are quite similar to living laboratories. Students will be keen and excited to look at the natural world around them and this can incorporate useful skills such as critical thinking, creativity, open mindedness and curiosity.
To get students excited about garden activity, you can create a special area for science observation. Make sure students can clearly observe the growth of seeds in the region and monitor plant decay activity.
Another easy way to engage students into math lessons is to ask them to plot a plant growth chart. Students can monitor the growth of plants for a fixed period of time and identify growth patterns.
You can also ask students to come up with garden cookbooks and even create their own recipes. Putting together a cookbook featuring garden recipes can help students enhance their literacy skills.
If a small act of garden based learning can improve the learning outcome, think about the huge impact that garden learning can make on the global education system. While this innovative teaching method is still in the starting phase, it is important that we keep working on it and create a better learning environment for our students.
Be sure to check out : Princes of Pilbarra: Guarding the Gardens (www.pilbarra.com) for more outdoor fun and adventure!
 Garden Based Learning – University of California