Teaching Core Ecological Concepts in Educational Garden Settings
Krintz, Megan C.
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, College of Natural Resources
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Across the United States, educational gardens are experiencing a renaissance after initial popularity in the late 1800s and subsequent decline. Concurrently, an increasing number of curriculum materials link garden-based learning and science education. However, while ecologists and environmental education professionals alike emphasize the increasing importance of developing ecological literacy, no widely-used garden-based curriculum focusing on ecology exists today, and there is a lack of data describing the widespread teaching of ecology in traditional garden settings. Therefore, this research aimed to describe both the extent and methods of teaching core (essential) ecological concepts in a garden setting, a basic component of ecological literacy. This research used the six “Core Ecological Concepts” developed by the Center for Ecoliteracy based on Fritjof Capra’s work in a survey distributed to garden educators across the U.S. to discover how educators might be teaching each concept. The survey yielded qualitative descriptive data which showed that the teaching of core ecological concepts in a garden is happening in different parts of the country at varying levels of depth or completeness, and with different grade levels, types of gardens, types of educators, standards covered, curriculum materials, and terminology. The methods detailed by the respondents for teaching each ecological concept were formed into categories using open coding, which formed the basis of a freely distributable garden ecology resource guide.