Sustainable Development Banner


Communication for development



Research and technology





Site map




About SD

May 2003

Revisiting garden based learning in basic education: Philosophical roots, historical foundations, best practices and products, impacts, outcomes, and future directions

by Daniel Desmond
4-H Youth Development Advisor
University of California- Davis, USA
El Dorado County Cooperative Extension

James Grieshop
Specialist, Community Education Development
University of California- Davis, USA
Department of Human and Community Development

Aarti Subramaniam
Research Assistant
University of California- Davis, USA
Department of Human and Community Development

Garden based learning programs (GBL) have gained popularity within current international educational debate, the document is a helpful summary of history, theories, literature, experiences and lessons learned about GBL, specifically for basic education.

The document first defines garden based learning and describes how GBL is integrated within educational programmes in both formal and non-formal settings. As there is not a unique definition, garden based learning can include environmental education, ecological literacy, agricultural literacy, and/or agricultural education. From the history and the theories of GBL, authors develop how garden based learning is inspired by the concepts of learning-by-doing, project based learning, real world learning and child-centred learning.

From a review of the evolution of the practice of GBL and a summary of relevant literature, authors describes the core uses of GBL in basic education (academic skills, personal development, social development, moral development, vocational and life skills) and beyond basic education (community development, food security, sustainable development, vocational schools, and Grounds Greening Education). From this review and an analysis of a number of experiences around the world, the authors suggest principles and best practices for a successful conception, planning, implementation and evaluation of GBL programs in developed and developing countries. To enable proper development of GBL in education institutions, organizational and operational considerations are described step by step.

Finally, impacts and outcomes of GBL programs are identified concerning academic achievement, environmental education, children's health and nutrition, families and communities. In conclusion, an attempt is made to identify how garden based learning will continue to evolve within basic education.

This study was commissioned by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations' Extension, Education and Communication Service and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization/International Institute for Educational Planning (UNESCO/IIEP) as a background paper for the joint forthcoming book on Education for Rural Development: Towards New Policy Responses and is intended to support the exchange of good practices and knowledge on Education for Rural People (ERP) within the related FAO/UNESCO ERP partnership flagship initiative.

Click here to see the full document (Word format - 309 KB).

For related information, please see:

SD Homepage Back to Top FAO Homepage