Student Review: Roots and Research in Urban School Gardens

February 23, 2012

Author: Veronica Gaylie

Edition: First

Publisher: Peter Lang

Pages: 195

Price: £75.40 and £19.70

ISBN: 9781433115264 and 5257

Like the gardens it explores, this textbook delivers. The aim is to examine the value of urban school gardens to both teaching and learning, illustrating how a relatively small venture can have a big impact on teachers and learners, the wider community and the environment.

As the book unfolds, the author and reader discover the complex relationships between humans and urban school gardens, and the need for new forms of pedagogical research in urban gardens. Growth in the urban garden movement across the globe makes this volume interesting and relevant beyond the US context in which the research is conducted.

Comprising less than 200 pages, this book’s concision makes it both attractive and accessible to students at all levels. Brevity does not compromise content: it is a comprehensive resource for both teachers and students, and has something to offer many disciplines including education, urban planning, geography and environmental management. Arranged in seven clearly defined chapters (introduction, history, four case studies and conclusion), the simple structure allows for easy reference, although it is a textbook that many students will feel compelled to read in its entirety.

The initial chapters provide an outline of historical practices and the evolution of urban school garden pedagogy. This material is accessible to those with scant knowledge of the role of urban gardens in teaching and learning, but it is also engaging for those seeking to reinforce and complement pre-existing knowledge.

However, this book really comes alive with the exploration of several case-study gardens in four regions in the Pacific Rim. Each region offers a distinct history and perspective on the urban school garden, and the in-depth studies allow the gardens to “speak for themselves” through first-hand narratives from both teachers and students.

The reader is provided with detailed accounts of the gardens, both factually descriptive and sensory, and these allow the complex relationships between the gardens, the teachers, the students and the wider community to unfold.

Short paragraphs punctuated with quotes from those involved in the gardens, together with photographs, garden plans and examples of students’ drawings and writings, create a real sense of the “place” of the urban school garden.

The final chapter summarises the key findings and, together with the first two chapters, provides a highly accessible point of reference for those without the time or inclination to dig deeper into the subject.

Who is it for? Undergraduates in a range of disciplines; primary and secondary school teachers.

Presentation: The simple structure and use of headings, together with illustrations, make this book accessible and engaging.

Would you recommend it? Highly, for both undergraduates and teachers.

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