Influence of school garden learning approach on academic development of global service-learners


  • Samuel Ikendi University of California - Merced
  • Michael S. Retallick Iowa State University
  • Gail R. Nonnecke Iowa State University
  • Donald R. Kugonza Makerere University



Academic development, Cognitive development, Community engagement, Global service-learning, School gardens, Reciprocal learning


Students need to develop cross-cultural awareness and understanding, which has led educational institutions to create high-impact global programs to enhance their academic learning. Global service-learning, a U.S.-based pedagogy, interconnects service-learning, study abroad, and international education programs. A service-learning program in [Country] was founded on the school garden approach which was conceptualized based on the emphasis by the Food and Agricultural Organization in 2004. NGO1, [State University], and [Country University] adopted school gardens as a feasible approach to fulfill the service-learning curricular objectives and meet NGO1’s goal of solving undernutrition in schools using garden products in school lunches. This study sought to determine the influence of service-learning program activities on alumni’s academic development. Alumni (n = 274) from 2006-2019 completed a self-administered questionnaire through Qualtrics where 94.2% responded. A principal components analysis (PCA) was employed, aligning activities into three components. The first component loaded school gardening, bi-national team projects, arrival orientations, farmer field visits, and school teaching assistance, depicting alumni’s community engagement in reciprocal learning. Component two loaded journaling/logbooks, critical reflections, and presentations, depicting alumni’s reflexive actions resulting in cognitive development through documenting and confronting their assumptions about their service-learning activities. Component three loaded co-curricular, tours and travels, and social parties, portraying alumni’s social life that provided opportunities to learn about distinct cultures. Pre-departure orientations loaded well on [State University] alumni’s PCA which mitigated culture shocks while in [Country]. Alumni could benefit overall from more instructor-led cognitive development activities whereby they could both learn from and question their activities.


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Author Biographies

Michael S. Retallick, Iowa State University

Michael S. Retallick, Ph.D.

Professor and Chair

Department of Agricultural Education and Studies

Iowa State University

513 Farm House Lane, Ames, IA 50011

Gail R. Nonnecke, Iowa State University

Gail R. Nonnecke, Ph.D.

University Professor, Morrill Professor

Department of Horticulture

Global Professor in Global Resource Systems

Associate Director for Education Programs

Center for Sustainable Rural Livelihoods

Iowa State University

2206 Osborn Dr, Ames, IA 50011

Donald R. Kugonza, Makerere University

Donald R. Kugonza, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Animal Sciences

Department of Agricultural Production

School of Agricultural Sciences

College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences

Makerere University

P.O. Box 7062, Kampala, Uganda




How to Cite

Ikendi, S., Retallick, M. S., Nonnecke, G. R., & Kugonza, D. R. (2023). Influence of school garden learning approach on academic development of global service-learners. Journal of Agricultural Education, 64(4).



Journal of Agricultural Education

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