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International Review of Education

, Volume 64, Issue 3, pp 295–312 | Cite as

Can learning in informal settings mitigate disadvantage and promote urban sustainability? School gardens in Washington, DC

  • Carley Fisher-Maltese
  • Dana R. Fisher
  • Rashawn Ray
Original Paper

Abstract

This article explores how school gardens provide learning opportunities for school-aged children while concurrently helping cities achieve sustainability. The authors analyse this process in Washington, DC, a particularly innovative metropolis in the United States. This national capital city boasts two of the most progressive examples of legislation aimed at improving environmental awareness and inciting citizens to engage in environmental stewardship, both of which focus on school-aged children: (1) the Healthy Schools Act of 2010 and (2) the Sustainable DC Act of 2012. Together these policies focus on bringing healthy lifestyles and environmental awareness, including meaningful outdoor learning experiences, to students and families in the District of Columbia. This article is organised into three parts. The first part discusses how Washington, DC became a sustainable learning city through the implementation of these specific policies. The next part presents the results of a pilot study conducted in one kindergarten to Grade 5 (K–5) elementary school located in Ward 8, the poorest part of the city. The authors’ analysis considers the support and the obstacles teachers and principals in the District of Columbia (DC) are experiencing in their efforts to integrate school gardens into the curriculum and the culture of their schools. Exploring the impacts of the school garden on the students, the local community, and the inter-generational relationships at and beyond schools, the authors aim to shed light on the benefits and the challenges. While Washington, DC is fostering its hope that the benefits prevail as it provides a model for other cities to follow, the authors also candidly present the challenges of implementing these policies. In the final part, they discuss the implications of their findings for school gardens and sustainable learning cities more broadly. They encourage further research to gain more insights into effective ways of promoting environmental literacy and to consolidate the transferability of this model.

Keywords

Garden-based learning School gardens Sustainability Sustainable learning cities Education policy 

Résumé

L’apprentissage en milieux informels peut-il réduire l’inégalité et favoriser la pérennité urbaine ? Jardins scolaires à Washington (États-Unis) – Le présent article explore les opportunités éducatives fournies aux écoliers par les jardins scolaires, et parallèlement leur contribution à réaliser le développement durable dans les villes. Les auteurs abordent cette démarche entamée à Washington, métropole particulièrement innovante des États-Unis. La capitale fédérale est fière de posséder deux types de législation parmi les plus progressistes, destinées à améliorer la prise de conscience écologique et à inciter les citoyens à s’engager dans la gestion de l’environnement, toutes deux s’adressant en particulier aux écoliers : la loi sur les écoles saines de 2010 (Healthy Schools Act) et celle de 2012 sur le développement durable dans le district de Columbia (Sustainable DC Act). Ces politiques visent ensemble à favoriser auprès des élèves et des familles du district les modes de vie sains et à les sensibiliser à l’écologie, par exemple à travers des expériences éducatives enrichissantes en extérieur. L’article est organisé en trois parties. La première analyse comment Washington est devenue ville apprenante pérenne grâce à la mise en œuvre de ces politiques spécifiques. La seconde partie présente les résultats d’une étude pilote menée dans un jardin d’enfants et jusqu’à la 5e année d’une école primaire située dans le quartier 8, le plus défavorisé de Washington. Dans leur analyse, les auteurs examinent les soutiens dont bénéficient les enseignants et directeurs d’écoles du district ainsi que les obstacles qu’ils rencontrent dans leurs efforts d’intégrer les jardins scolaires dans le programme et la culture de leurs établissements. Les auteurs explorent en outre les impacts du jardin scolaire sur les élèves, la communauté locale et sur les relations intergénérationnelles dans l’école et à l’extérieur, et tentent ainsi de faire la lumière sur les avantages et les défis. Si la Ville de Washington nourrit l’espoir de voir les bienfaits l’emporter puisqu’elle fournit un modèle à suivre par d’autres villes, les auteurs détaillent également en toute franchise les défis rencontrés dans l’application de ces politiques. En dernière partie, ils analysent les implications de leurs résultats pour les jardins scolaires et plus généralement pour les villes apprenantes pérennes. Ils préconisent une recherche complémentaire pour approfondir les données déjà obtenues sur les moyens efficaces de promouvoir l’initiation à l’écologie ainsi que de consolider la transférabilité de ce modèle.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. and UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carley Fisher-Maltese
    • 1
  • Dana R. Fisher
    • 2
  • Rashawn Ray
    • 2
  1. 1.George Mason UniversityFairfaxUSA
  2. 2.University of MarylandCollege ParkUSA

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