Seeds of Change Combining the benefits of school gardens and technology in the classroom
Shensky is extremely enthusiastic when it comes to his beliefs in the potential benefit that the marriage of a school garden and technology could lead to. “I think using the app in the school’s garden can, at the very least, bring the garden to the center of food systems education on campus… the garden can be used as a spring board for all sorts of lessons.”
And so far the results of the app’s implementation look promising. Shensky recently conducted a ‘Garden App Assessment’, which included both basic and advanced level questions about the garden. The test was administered to three distinct student groups.
- Students with no exposure to the garden or the app.
- Students with exposure to the garden but not the app.
- Students with exposure to the garden and the app
While groups 1 and 2 performed similarly, group 3 scored significantly higher in both basic and advanced level questioning, suggesting that students exposed to the app have an improved understanding of what is taught during garden lessons. Another benefit of the app, as Shensky explains, is that “Survey results suggest that using the app in the garden may help to promote greater interest in the garden as well as promoting discussion between students and parents”.
“U-ACRE has allowed me to accomplish many things I never thought I would be able to accomplish”
Looking forward, Shensky hopes that he can continue to refine and expand upon the app’s capabilities and usefulness. At present, students can use the app to collect all sorts of data pertaining to things like water usage, soil conditions, growth, temperatures, and planting methods. This information is stored and becomes immediately available to teachers. As the information becomes more robust it can be used in their lesson plans. “This means lessons can be based off student collected data, as opposed to arbitrary numbers from a textbook” Shensky explains. The hope is that this will give students a more applicable understanding of, and connection to, their assignments. Furthermore, he believes it could serve to increase their interest in subjects like math and science, and even history depending on how creatively teachers can become in utilizing the information.
“U-ACRE has allowed me to accomplish many things I never thought I would be able to accomplish” Shensky declares as he reflects on what the program has meant to him; and the list of accomplishments is quite lengthy. He’s been able to develop and present his own research at regional, state, and national level conferences; he’s been awarded at the California Geographical Society Conference twice (once for his app, and again for his research as a whole.) Accolades aside though, what Shensky truly cherishes most are the personal bonds that he has been able to establish with community partners and with other U-ACRE fellows. “I currently get to work on important meaningful issues with a great group of fellow students and I couldn't ask for anything more than that.”
If you’d like to learn more about the U-ACRE program, visit their website to see how you can get involved.
Sara E. Johnson, Ph.D.
Project Director and Principal Investigator
Email - firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone - 657 278 5762