Using a pen pal program to assess student learning through culture and school gardens

Green, Samantha
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Youth at two schools (St. John, USVI and West Liberty, IA) participated in the I Grow Culture Pen Pal Program. The purpose of the 9-week program was to evaluate middle school student's increase in knowledge and confidence related to communicating local gardening, cultural understanding and sustainability. The collaborating schools were specifically chosen because they each meet the criteria of having a garden for middle school students to integrate English and science into their agriculture curriculum. The objectives of this program were to increase awareness of garden sustainability, understand place-based gardening and environmental sciences, while establishing a garden-based distance cultural relationship and practice communication technologies. The overarching goal was to increase confidence in knowledge of gardens and sustainability. The program was intended to support metacognitive communication skills, understanding of traditional cross-culture connections, and improved knowledge of garden diversity and practices. Pre- and posttests with multiple choice and open-ended responses were administered to evaluate knowledge gain and confidence. A suitcase of artifacts, brochures and videos were developed to evaluate perspectives on culture, agriculture and sustainability. The program resulted in a significant increase on posttest, leading us to conclude this program was effective.

Agriculture Education, culture, experiential learning, middle school, pen pal program, school garden, sustainable