Urban Sprouts has field-tested and evaluated the Garden-based Education Model developed by Dr. Michelle Ratcliffe (Ratcliffe et al., 2006; Ratcliffe et al., 2009). This model combines the Social Cognitive Theory of behavior change (Bandura, 1986), youth development theory and ecoliteracy models to determine the quantity and quality of garden-based experiences that enable youth to improve their health and nutrition. Learning that takes place in an interactive and multi-sensory context—the school garden—helps youth retain new knowledge and attitudes in the long-term. Results from Urban Sprouts’s program evaluations show real changes in participating youths’ attitudes towards the environment, consumption of fruits and vegetables, and motivation to make change in their eating habits at school and at home.
Urban Sprouts’s program model enhances the learning environment in three ways.
First, the physical school garden teaches youth and their families how to build and maintain gardens and how to plant, tend, harvest, prepare and eat fresh produce through hands-on experience.
Second, curriculum teaches knowledge and critical-thinking about healthy food choices and the environment, through hands-on science experiments, interactive problem-solving activities, and reading and discussion assignments that provoke critical-thinking and debate.
Third, hands-on group project work in the garden builds participants’ emotional and social health, or resiliency assets, like confidence, responsibility, decision-making, empowerment, problem-solving, self-efficacy and cooperation. Strong resiliency assets further strengthen adoption of positive health behaviors, while giving participants the leadership skills to share learning and make change in their homes and communities.