Growing a new school community in a garden
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As a new school forms, the development of community is essential to creating a positive learning environment that meets both academic and social-emotional needs of students. The purpose of the study was to examine how interactions in a garden could contribute to the development of community. From the literature, seven common elements of community were identified: inclusion, democracy, common purpose, diversity, communication, social interactions, and a connection with the earth. The participants were 13 students in first through third grade and three garden teachers at a newly opened school with a focus on environmental stewardship. Teacher and student initiated interactions were observed and recorded over the first three months of school. The data were analyzed to examine each element and interaction over time. The findings provided evidence of consistently positive interactions in the garden. Highly positive interactions in the garden include interconnection to the earth, and working together for a common purpose. Continuing instruction in the outdoor garden environment was recommended due to the highly positive community interactions observed.