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A case study was organized at a K-5 elementary school in Lincoln, Nebraksa. This school is Saratoga Elementary School and is a United States Title I Distinguished School1 under No Child Left Behind. It has a population of 266 students, with 47% being minority, 1% gifted, and 28% special education (LPS School Profile Brochure). 80% of the student population is eligible for free/reduced meals, implying that it’s a school with a lower socioeconomic status. At this school a garden space was constructed and an after school garden club was implemented for this case study. The club had been running since the previous spring semester. Surveys were issued to assess educators’ attitudes toward outdoor classrooms and the cognitive (emotional) benefits outdoor education has on children. Students were surveyed before and after club to see if there are emotional benefits to being in an environmental education based club. Students self-assessed their emotional state using emotion stickers. Educators at Saratoga Elementary were also be surveyed assess their attitudes toward environmental education and outdoor classrooms.
It was found that there was not a significant difference in cognitive (emotional) response from the students’ pre- and post- Garden club. There was only an increase by 0.02 when quantifying an emotional scale of 1-5. Teacher surveys found that half (50%) of the teachers who responded to the survey did not include outdoor activities in planning their curriculum for the classroom, and half (50%) did not use outdoor activities or recess to alter the behavior of students. All of the teacher respondents were aware of outdoor space (school garden), but only 60% had utilized the space for an activity. Overall awareness was assessed and it was found that 53% were considered ‘aware’ of cognitive and/or emotional benefits of nature to children.
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