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Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - Pacific Access Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


Curriculum and Instruction

First Advisor

Nelson Thomas

First Committee Member

Harriett Arnold

Second Committee Member

Robert Oprandy

Third Committee Member

Dean Sloan


Teachers in elementary schools have increasingly been required to follow pacing guides, given directives on what curriculum to use, and are provided standardized assessments to measure student learning. Curricula used by elementary teachers rarely address the environmental degradation plaguing the planet. School gardens have been used for over a century by educators as a place to promote students learning about the environment, science, and health. However, few studies have been conducted exploring the ways teachers have been influenced by teaching within school gardens. The purpose of this phenomenological study was to better understand the role of school gardens as a learning place, while exploring the lived experiences of teachers' interactions and experiences within school gardens and ways place-based education influenced teachers' pedagogical approaches and curriculum decisions. The four participants who took part in this study were all elementary school teachers at a Central California school. The guiding research question was stated as: How do school gardens function as learning places? Phenomenological methodology was used to explore the shared experiences teachers had with utilizing the school garden as a learning place. From analysis of interviews, classroom and garden observations, and supplemental curricula used by participants, three themes emerged illuminating ways participants' pedagogy and curriculum decisions had been influenced. Interactions and experiences with school gardens inspired participants to integrate project-based learning and interdisciplinary supplemental curriculum into their lessons. Place-based learning helped to build relationships, and the importance of teachers integrating emotional connections in their instructional practices. By teaching content disciplines using interdisciplinary curricula with lessons taught in the school garden, participants were able to integrate project-based learning activities that increased student responsibilities in the learning process and provided service learning opportunities. Conclusions drawn from the findings were that direct interactions and experiences with elements of place-based learning in a school garden influenced the ways in which participants perceived the purpose of their pedagogical approaches and curriculum decisions. Literature supported these findings and reinforced the influence of lessons in school gardens promoting environmental and health education. Connected with the results of this study, implications for practice and recommendations for future research are also presented.





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