Youth Gardening: Opportunities for Strengthening Life Skills and Educational Achievement with Special Populations

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Virginia Tech


It is believed that an effective way of reducing levels of juvenile delinquency is to implement preventative programs for young children. This research explored the use of a youth gardening project as a preventative program by examining the effects on self-concept. The study involved two groups of inner city youth participating in a Department of Parks and Recreation summer program. The test group participated in gardening activities while the control group did not. Self-concept was evaluated using the Self Perception Profile for Children in a pre- and post-test format to measure any change through participation in the program. Participants were also asked to draw a picture of a garden and the test group completed a questionnaire on their gardening experience. Results indicate an increase in self-concept in the gardening group. A comparison of drawings from the two groups suggests that the gardeners have a better understanding of plant anatomy and diversity. Questionnaire responses indicate that students enjoyed gardening, felt and behaved better when gardening, and thought they learned through the garden. Many difficulties greatly reduced sample sizes for this research. Future research must find ways to overcome these issues. A survey was conducted to explore common difficulties associated with research on the benefits of horticulture programs for youth. Findings from this survey are discussed, including suggestions for improving research and directions for future studies.



Horticulture, Self-Concept, Exceptional youth, Youth-at-risk