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