Publication Date

Spring 2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Environmental Studies


Katherine Cushing


environmental awareness, Environmental education program, Environmental literacy, Garden-based education, Nature defecit disorder, School garden

Subject Areas

Environmental education; Environmental justice; Environmental studies


The objective of this research was to assess garden-based pedagogy as an effective strategy to increase environmental literacy in elementary-aged students. With severe environmental issues facing children today and into the future, environmental literacy is a desired outcome of environmental education programs. Such interventions create environmentally responsible citizens who understand how humans impact the natural environment and thereby act sustainably. Currently, little research exists on garden education’s influence on students’ environmental literacy, especially in underrepresented communities. Using a nonequivalent control group study design, this project investigated the impact of a garden education program in Central San José, CA in an underserved, mostly Latinx population. This seven-week program included learning in an on-site raised bed garden and a field trip to an urban farm. The study employed pre- and post- surveys modeled after the Children's Environmental Attitude and Knowledge Scale, participant journaling, and researcher observation to assess changes in environmental literacy in two treatment and two control classes of fourth graders living in underrepresented communities. Data were analyzed using t-tests, participant observation, and document review. Mean environmental literacy scores of students participating in the garden education program increased significantly over the control group, especially in categories of pro-environmental awareness and attitude.