free_flowers-garden-herbs-flowerbed_rh218x180 for Alison Bethel ESMI's pick

A mixed methods systematic review to investigate the health and well-being impacts of school gardening

ESMI's pick for October 2016

This month the honour goes to Alison Bethel and colleagues from the UEMS European Centre for Environment and Human Health School for their mixed methods systematic review paper “A systematic review of the health and well-being impacts of school gardening: synthesis of quantitative and qualitative evidence” in BMC Public Health.

We asked Alison to give us some background and context to the paper, which was led by Dr Becca Lovell:

School gardening and food growing have become popular activities in thousands of schools around the world. National school gardening programmes exist in some countries the individuals and organisations behind these programmes believe that school gardening has the potential to improve children’s health, social development and academic attainment. Several studies had been published on the impact and meaning of school gardening programmes, so we felt it was justified and timely to conduct a robust, mixed methods systematic review of the health and well-being impacts of school gardening, to support and inform the further development of this popular school-based intervention.” 

The authors included 40 studies (21 quantitative, 3 mixed methods and 16 qualitative) in the review. Despite limited quantitative evidence of benefit, Alison highlighted that the qualitative studies mostly reported positive health and educational benefits, as depicted by some of the following quotes:

It makes me feel good inside, all fresh, good… I enjoy touching the soil, the plants. You can feel them…I feel part of them…Yes, it makes me feel that I can care more about things… Being more gentle, caring more, the plants are like people” (student aged 17)

When I grow them [vegetables] I feel like I should always try it. And when I’ve grown them I like them better than the shop ones” (child, primary school)

You’ll have to read the paper if you want to find out what we concluded overall” says Alison!

Congratulations to Alison and colleagues for their work to inform the further development of school gardening programmes.


Browse the other ESMI's picks