Multicultural school gardens: creating engaging garden spaces in learning about language, culture, and environment

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Cutter-Mackenzie, A 2009, 'Multicultural school gardens: creating engaging garden spaces in learning about language, culture, and environment', Canadian Journal of Environmental Education, vol. 14, no. 1, pp. 122-35.

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Children's gardening programs have enjoyed increasing popularity in recent years. An Australian environmental education non-profit organization implemented a program, entitled Multicultural Schools Gardens, in disadvantaged (low-income) schools that used food gardening as a focus for implementing a culturally-focused environmental education program. While the program included the well documented educational, social, and health benefits of growing food, gardening and cooking were also utilized as leverage in learning about culture, language (English as a Second Language), and environment. Alongside the program's implementation, a combined methods research approach was applied to gauge children's learning experiences as program participants. Part of this process involved children researching their own practice, accompanied by researcher interviews and observations with students and teachers. This paper presents an inquiry into practice involving one site, revealing how a culturally diverse school with a high proportion of migrant and refugee families created an engaging garden space. This space led to a strong sense of belonging among students who were formerly dislodged from their birthplaces, together with providing opportunities for learning English language and forming connections to the local environment. The paper provides food for thought with respect to the potential for children's gardening to transcend language and cultural differences.