Garden Mosaics

Final Report for ENE99-049

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 1999: $116,635.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2002
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $35,968.00
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Gretchen Ferenz
Cornell Cooperative Extenstion--NYC
Co-Leaders:
Marianne Krasny
Cornell University
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Project Information

Summary:

During summers 2000 and 2001, community educators and volunteers and Cornell student fellows in six cities led youth in participatory research in urban community gardens, designed to document ethnic and sustainable gardening practices. In 2002, we received NSF funding and were able to expand the program to 11 cities. The evaluation revealed that youth learned about gardening and research, and developed positive relationships with elders. The educators enhanced their ability to conduct inquiry-based garden education programs for youth, and developed new partnerships with urban community groups. Products include three refereed journal articles, one book chapter, and the project website (http://www.dnr.cornell.edu/gardenmosaics/).

Project Objectives:

1. Twelve Extension educators and 10 educators from non-profit organizations from six cities will participate in a three-day workshop, through which they will develop: (a) an enhanced understanding of urban agricultural ecosystems and sustainable agricultural principles as applied in urban community gardens; and (b) the skills necessary to conduct participatory research with youth in community gardens, including interviewing, mapping, and measuring plant growth.
2. Under the guidance of the educators who participate in the three-day workshop, 70 youth ages 10-17 from 4-H clubs and other youth groups will conduct seven local Garden Mosaics projects, through which they will: (a) develop an understanding of urban agroecosystems and sustainable agricultural principles as applied in urban community gardens; (b) develop the skills necessary to conduct participatory research; and (c) conduct participatory research designed to document sustainable vegetable-growing practices of ethnic minorities, recent immigrants, and others in urban community gardens.
3. Through conference presentations, local garden tours, and the project web site and educator’s guide, 5500 educators, scientists, gardeners, and youth will develop an understanding of: (a) urban agricultural ecosystems and sustainable agricultural principles as applied in urban community gardens; (b) the economic, social, and environmental importance of community gardens in cities; (c) how to conduct participatory research in community gardens; (d) sustainable agricultural practices in community gardens documented by participants in this project; and (e) how to conduct local Garden Mosaics projects.

Introduction:

Garden Mosaics in a Nutshell
The Who? What? Why? Where? When? How? of Garden Mosaics for the reader who has time to read one page before deciding whether this is of interest!

Who? Youth ages 10-18, elder gardeners, and educators and volunteers in community education programs and classrooms. Program materials are developed by Cornell University in collaboration with educators from 11 US cities.

What? A non-formal science education and community action program. Youth conduct three types of activities: Getting Acquainted with gardening and with each other; Core Investigations to learn about the garden, gardeners, and their neighborhood; and Action Projects to benefit the garden and gardeners. They use the Garden Mosaics Science Pages to learn about the science concepts behind their investigations and other activities. Youth also contribute information to the National Community Garden Inventory and Gardener History website databases. Although youth in Garden Mosaics are involved in hands-on gardening, this is not the focus of the program but rather a complement to the other activities.

Why? Garden Mosaics addresses issues related to science education, positive role models for youth, green space in cities, and sustainable agriculture.

Where? Activities in community gardens, home gardens, and school gardens. Youth from community centers, science enrichment programs, camps, other non-formal educational settings, home schools, and classrooms. The program is designed primarily for youth working in urban community gardens, with suggestions on how to adapt the activities for home and school gardens in rural, suburban, and urban settings.

When? During the growing season with follow up activities possible during the winter. Programs vary in length. One day per week for six weeks is common, but some programs have met more often over a three week period and others continue during the school year.

How? Educators use the manual and other materials posted on the Garden Mosaics website to help youth develop interviewing skills and learn about garden science. The youth conduct observations and interviews with elder gardeners to learn about the biological, physical, and social environment of gardens. Once the youth have learned about the gardens, they explore where else fresh food, places to socialize, and green space are available in their neighborhood. During their interviews and observations, the youth define a research, educational, policy, or other project to benefit the garden. They then carry out the project and share the results with the gardeners. The youth also have an opportunity to interact with scientists and community gardening activists locally, and nationally through sharing the results of their projects over the website.

Garden Mosaics is funded by the USDA NE Sustainable Research and Education Program, the National Science Foundation Informal Science Education Program, and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University.

Educational Approach

Educational approach:

Publications/Outreach

The results from the project evaluation were the subject of an MS thesis that led to two journal publications (Journal of Extension and Environmental Education Research), and a chapter in a forthcoming book on Public Scholarship. Garden Mosaics also was featured in the National SARE 2001 Annual Report. The Garden Mosaics website has been used by educators to learn about ethnic plants and about how to conduct a Garden Mosaics program with youth.
In a related project that received some support from the SARE grant, a second graduate student conducted a study of the contributions of community gardens to Latino neighborhoods in NYC. Her results indicate that gardens provide safe open spaces for growing food and social and cultural activities in communities that are not served by public parks. A paper resulting from this work has been accepted for publication in Agriculture and Human Values.

The results from the project evaluation were the subject of an MS thesis that led to two journal publications (Journal of Extension and Environmental Education Research), and a chapter in a forthcoming book on Public Scholarship. Garden Mosaics also was featured in the National SARE 2001 Annual Report. The Garden Mosaics website has been used by educators to learn about ethnic plants and about how to conduct a Garden Mosaics program with youth.
In a related project that received some support from the SARE grant, a second graduate student conducted a study of the contributions of community gardens to Latino neighborhoods in NYC. Her results indicate that gardens provide safe open spaces for growing food and social and cultural activities in communities that are not served by public parks. A paper resulting from this work has been accepted for publication in Agriculture and Human Values.

No milestones

Performance Target Outcomes

Outcomes

Garden Mosaics educators from the six cities in the Northeast cited a number of positive outcomes from participation in the program, including enhanced professional development (educators at 5 sites), enhanced professional networks (4 sites), increased knowledge of ethnic crops and gardening practices (3 sites), increased skill in participatory research (3 sites), increased ability to work with diverse youth (3), personally rewarding experience (3 sites), and enhanced gardening skills (2 sites). Youth at six sites enhanced their academic skills and knowledge about the importance of gardening; other youth outcomes included learning from elders (5 sites), enhanced gardening skills (5 sites), learning from different people (3 sites), and enhanced understanding of research (2 sites). Outcomes for gardeners included appreciation for youth listening to their stories (5 sites), interaction with youth and others (4 sites), and exchanging knowledge with educators (3 sites).
Through our interviews and focus groups with educators, we have significantly enhanced our understanding of how to conduct youth-led participatory research in urban community gardens. These insights have been incorporated into our website, part of which serve as the program manual. Additionally, our experience from the SARE-funded program was instrumental in receiving a $1.4 million NSF Informal Science Education grant in January 2002.

Project Outcomes

NB—I will use this section for Milestones since there is no place to enter Milestones.
Objective 1
We held a total of five workshops to train educators and Cornell student fellows to implement the program during summers 2000, 2001, and 2002, during which participants gained hands-on experience conducting participatory mapping and soils protocols drawn from Participatory Rural Appraisal. We also conducted three end-of-the-summer focus groups, during which educators and Cornell fellows shared the outcomes of their Garden Mosaics projects.
Objective 2
Approximately 250 youth participated in Garden Mosaics projects during summers 2000-03. In New York City, youth from Mary Mitchell Community Center worked in a community garden in the Bronx; they started their own garden plots and conducted participatory research to determine planting practices, garden history, and soil characteristics, and to understand the garden as an ecosystem. A second group of youth from the Crown Heights Youth Collective conducted participatory research with gardeners in Brooklyn in partnership with the Brooklyn Botanic Garden community outreach program. The youth from both NYC sites met and shared project results during an end of the summer garden celebration. In Baltimore and Buffalo, youth started gardens at community centers, and helped develop inventories of community gardens in the city. In Rochester, youth worked at existing school gardens and were paired with an elder gardener at the elder’s home garden. In Allentown, the youth conducted participatory research with seniors and worked on their own garden plot at Casa Guadelupe Community Center. In Philadelphia, the youth worked at the Aspen Farms community garden. Youth from the six additional cities added with the NSF funding conducted similar activities.
Objective 3
We gave Garden Mosaics presentations at conferences of the American Community Gardening Association (Salt Lake City, UT), Ecological Society of America (Madison, WI), Institute of Ecosystem Studies (Millbrook, NY), University of TX-San Antonio, North American Association of Environmental Educators (South Padre Island, TX), National Science Teachers Association (San Diego, CA), and Cornell Cooperative Extension educators (Ithaca, NY) reaching a total of approximately 400 educators and scientists. We posted instructions for how to conduct Garden Mosaics projects on our website in June 2001 and are currently rewriting the website using the NSF funding.

Future Recommendations

We currently are addressing two challenges we have encountered through the initial program: (1) how to motivate urban teens to participate in summer research programs, and (2) how to develop a system whereby youth can contribute data about community gardens and sustainable and ethnic gardening practices to a national database.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.