ERG SES D 04, Interactive Poster Session
Interactive Poster Session
This paper brings information about an implemented action research the aim of which was to improve the complex educational use of a school garden. Primary goal of this study was aimed at the real use of school garden of a specific school in the research area of environmental education, didactics, special and social educational science. Secondary goal included creating a strategy model for an action research, applicable in similar conditions of Czech basic primary schools. The school which was chosen for the research includes special pre-school and primary school, pre-school and primary school oriented to children with serious speech impediments, primary school for children with special educational needs, special primary and secondary school. Such a school has been chosen for its complexity involving pre-primary, primary and secondary levels and varied composition of pupils. The chosen school owns a school garden located outside of the school area. The school garden is mostly being used for outdoor practice of education. Its upbringing, and at the same time educational potential is rather broader, especially from the point of view of the fact that such school provides education mainly for pupils with mild and severe mental disability, and also learning and behavioural impediments. The school garden is available all year-round and usable “classroom in the nature” could serve to teach a vast range of school subjects thus contributing to decreasing the overal time spent by pupils in the school buildings.
A qualitative approach was chosen for this research. In fact it was action research with the design of a case study. I decided to use the following methods: observation, semi-structural interviews with the school management, teachers and pupils. In addition, both essencial curricular documents and EVVO programme (Environmental education for school and community) were submitted to analysis as they both are integral parts of the school concept.
The result of documents analysis, interviews and observations have brought out both advantages and limitations of school garden´s use as a specific educational space. During the gradual ongoing research the following facts came out that the needs of individual pupils using parts of the school are very different. Therefore, such needs influence the frequency and effectiveness of the school garden´s use. Majority of the teachers and pupils involved perceived the school garden as an attractive, inspiring space which eliminates a vast range of problems existed in school buildings, e.g. the freedom of pupil´s movement, choice of working position, sufficient amount of fresh air, natural light, noise abatement, etc., which all are aspects that remarkably can exert influence over the educational process and, at the same time, pupils´ behaviour during learning process.
This qualitative approach entails an action research with the design of a Case study. This research is based on the following applied methods: observation, semi-structural interviews with the school management, teachers, EVVO coordinator, school guidance counsellor, school methodology prevention specialist and pupils. In April 2017, the first phase of the research took place: observating pupils during their lessons in the school garden, which gave me enough sources to decide to choose respective teachers being later asked to agree to be interviewed. Based on those interviews the teachers´ interest emerged to share their experience, especially teachers of subjects not being directly linked up with the school garden. In the next phase, I devoted myself to study principal curricular school documents: ŠVP (Školní vzdělávací program - School Educational Programme) and EVVO programme (Environmmentální vzdělávání, výchova a osvěta – Environmental education for school and community), which is an integral part of the school concept. The observation of pupils and teachers was carried out during May 2017 when the school regularly takes part in the event under the name of The Month of School Gardens organised by International Association of School Playgrounds and Gardens (ISGA). During the same month, major part of school classes were present in the garden in turns, so that it enabled the selection proces of pupils suitable for the following interviews. The interviews were carried out during June 2017 and were prepared in such a way to meet the interviewed pupils mental and sensory abilities. After that I interviewed with the volunteered teachers who taught their subject straight after the return of their class from the garden. It was aimed on the observation of the class not only during their stay outside, but also the impact of the stay outside on further learning, preferably, their concentration, discipline and work results during further lessons. Based on analysis, interviews and observation, I tried to define and specify weak and strong points in school garden use with the aim to suggest and create innovative methodology for complex use of broad educational potential of the school garden having in mind the pupils specific structure of the school. Such methodology prospective is to be inspirationally applied to other schools of similar specialisation.
According to this investigation process the use of school gardens is rather unbalanced depending on e.g. the level of school, type of handicap and health limitation of pupils, day regime, character of the subject taught, personal preferences of the teacher. Following common limitations which were stated named by the teachers: garden´s distance from school, risk of injuries, unsuitable children clothing, shortage of sitting places at the table, distance of barrier-free entrance to the garden. Teachers expressed that staying outdoors has a positive influence on children´s behaviour with behavioural disorders and sensory disabilities. The mentioned aspect would demand objective research generalisation and future broader implementation. From pupils‘ point of view, the outdoor education in the garden has a positive impact on their learning. They mainly appreciate freedom of movement, the posssibility to communicate during lessons and consuming garden-grown food. In some cases, they expressed their concerns about meeting specific animals beings and excessive amount of dirt related to work in the garden. This study revealed that use of the school garden declared in school curricular documents is not acknowledged fully and practically, so that the educational potential of the garden is not completely used, namely in the sense of its use for teaching of some school subjects. Despite formal and informal support from the school management, some limitations of organisational nature occured, e.g. the structure of scheduled lessons during the day and distance of the school garden from the school building. Among further obstacles, I can name non-willingness of some of the teachers to change their routine methods and forms or relative environmental unsuitability for some groups of pupils (pupils with autistic spectrum disorders).
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