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Health Educ Behav. 2012 Aug;39(4):419-32. doi: 10.1177/1090198111422937. Epub 2011 Dec 13.

Growing community: the impact of the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program on the social and learning environment in primary schools.

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University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.


This article presents results from a mixed-method evaluation of a structured cooking and gardening program in Australian primary schools, focusing on program impacts on the social and learning environment of the school. In particular, we address the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program objective of providing a pleasurable experience that has a positive impact on student engagement, social connections, and confidence within and beyond the school gates. Primary evidence for the research question came from qualitative data collected from students, parents, teachers, volunteers, school principals, and specialist staff through interviews, focus groups, and participant observations. This was supported by analyses of quantitative data on child quality of life, cooperative behaviors, teacher perceptions of the school environment, and school-level educational outcome and absenteeism data. Results showed that some of the program attributes valued most highly by study participants included increased student engagement and confidence, opportunities for experiential and integrated learning, teamwork, building social skills, and connections and links between schools and their communities. In this analysis, quantitative findings failed to support findings from the primary analysis. Limitations as well as benefits of a mixed-methods approach to evaluation of complex community interventions are discussed.

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