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Natural Awakenings National

School Gardens: Growing Science, Success, Service

May 01, 2009 03:00AM ● By Susie Ruth

Science educators have long recognized the value of school gardens in motivating students to study science. Now, studies by Texas A&M and Louisiana State universities show that participating in Junior Master Gardener (JMG) school gardening programs also significantly boost students’ scores on science achievement tests. Moreover, “No statistical significance was found between girls and boys.”

JMG is an international 4-H youth program for grades 3 to 8, operated through each state’s cooperative extension service and modeled on the adult Master Gardener program. Curriculum-related group hands-on activities integrate math, science, social studies and language arts.

JMG’s newest curriculum is Literature in the Garden for grades 3 to 5. Activities revolve around six award-winning books: Plantzilla, by Jerdine Nolen; Miss Rumphius, by Barbara Cooney; Brother Eagle, Sister Sky, by Susan Jeffers; The Gardener, by Sarah Stewart; Tops and Bottoms, by Janet Stevens; and Weslandia, by Paul Fleischman.

Such programs also have been shown to prompt healthier snacking, extracurricular community service and improvement in life skills. Students can participate in JMG through schools, homeschools, after-school programs, summer camps or youth clubs. To date, the program has benefited 970,000 youths in all 50 states and 10 countries.

Learn about the Junior Master Gardener Program at For supporting information on the benefits of school gardens from the National Science Teachers Association, search

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