The effect of garden-based learning on learning plant science and environment attitude
Cheung, Ka Yan Christine
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Low interest in plants has negatively affected student performance and hindered motivation in learning plant science. The introduction of garden-based learning (GBL) to the curriculum was intended to improve the academic achievement and attitude in learning plant science through practical experience and a student-centered learning atmosphere. Environmental education is seldom infused into the curriculum in Hong Kong. This action research (AR) project attempted to use GBL to understand its effect on the environmental attitudes of high school students. Control and treatment groups were recruited to study the effect of GBL. The control group learned plant science using traditional direct teaching while the treatment group studied plant science using a gardening program. Pre- and post-assessment, surveys, interviews, journals, and field notes were used to collect data. Quantitative and qualitative data were processed using the triangulation mixed-method. From the statistical results, the academic performance of the treatment group was less satisfactory than that of the control group. It was potentially hindered by the lack of a conventional in-person learning environment in the treatment group, however qualitative data showed that GBL enhanced plant literacy and promoted higher-ordered thinking by strengthening student memory and increasing their motivation. GBL also catered to different learning styles and was especially helpful for lower achievers. No significant statistical difference was observed between the attitude in learning plant science of both groups. Yet, the gardening experience was identified as the most engaging component. It engaged students in the treatment group in learning plant science as students gained achievement, interest, and a sense of responsibility during gardening. Significant increment was recognized in the attitude towards the environment of the treatment group in both quantitative and qualitative data, while the control group did not experience any changes. Students in the treatment group were also more willing to take action in environmental protection. The gardening experience was again the critical contributing factor. The hands-on and real-life experience created a deeper feeling and stronger connection with the environment. To sum up, using GBL in teaching plant science enhances the students' plant literacy and engagement in learning. It is proved to be an effective tool for positive impact on cultivating the student's attitude towards the environment.