Urban Sprouts' Garden-based Education Model


On June 10 I'm speaking at the 2009 Childhood Obesity Conference. There, I'll share with other nutrition educators a special strength of Urban Sprouts -- our "Model," something that has theory behind it, has been tested by research, and guides everything that we do. Here are my slides for the presentation, including detailed results from our 2006-2008 Program Evaluation.

Download the complete Model -

Why do we use a program model? Let me share a couple of the reasons why we believe it's so important:
  1. Not guessing what works – existing theory and the body of knowledge from multiple fields inform our work.
  2. A recipe for success – what ingredients we must add in order to get the outcomes we desire.
  3. Evidence of outcomes – Inputs and outcomes are tested by research and evaluation to show impact in the real world.
  4. A Measurement tool – The model guides all our practices, shows how well we’re doing, and tells us where to make improvements at every step.

Now, you may be wondering, what does this really mean, to have a program model?

Urban Sprouts’ program model was created by Dr. Michelle Ratcliffe. In fact, Dr. Ratcliffe's doctoral research project marked our beginning. The program model demonstrates the links between individual behavior changes that school gardens inspire and the larger impacts on families, schools and communities. The model is based on three elements: a young person’s internal strengths, the school and home settings around her, and her own actions, and, finally, how these three interact to create a healthy or unhealthy community. We don't think of the garden as an input and eating healthy as an output. Instead, the garden (an environment), a person's internal strengths, and a person's behaviors all reinforce each other to make people and the community better.
external image SCT+image.jpgSpecifically, Urban Sprouts’ school gardens give youth the knowledge and motivation to eat more fruits and vegetables (behaviors), as well as the ability to grow them (affecting the environment). Our programs also teach confidence and leadership (internal strengths) and help youth to identify problems in their communities – like a lack of fresh produce for sale at neighborhood stores – that are barriers to making healthy choices (environment). This program model shows that the garden goes beyond the individual to also have community-level impacts that create broader social change.

In more detail, our program model lays out all the elements that the school garden environment must have in order to actually impact students' internal strengths and their behaviors. These elements fall into three categories: the physical, curricular and social learning environments.

Click on this simplified version of model (below) to see it larger. Another description of the model can be read here.

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