Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Open Access)


Colby College. Environmental Studies Program


Philip J. Nyhus

Second Advisor

F. Russell Cole

Third Advisor

Alison Bates


School gardens have existed since the late nineteenth century and today are becoming increasingly popular in many parts of the world, including where I studied in Maine and Australia (AUS). Multiple organizations support school gardens in Maine, including the Maine School Garden Network, which has over 125 registered school gardens. In AUS, the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation primarily supports the school garden movement and has over 800 registered school gardens. While many researchers have studied school gardens, few have compared two countries, focused on environmental sustainability, or investigated Maine in particular. This thesis combines information from literature reviews, and primary research carried out in Maine and AUS using surveys, participant observation, and interviews to answer three specific study questions: (1) How do school gardens impact student nutritional habits, knowledge of the environment, and practices of sustainability in Maine and AUS? (2) What organizations exist in Maine to support school gardens and what are their roles? and (3) What factors contribute to successful school garden programs?

After reviewing the literature; observing 6 schools; interviewing 14 teachers and experts; and surveying 11 parents and 40 students, I found that school gardens hold the potential to: encourage students to eat more nutritious diets, teach students about environmental processes and issues, and inspire students to live environmentally friendly lifestyles. I also developed a set of 11 factors that contribute to successful school gardens by which I ranked my six study sites: clearly defined goals; passionate teachers; paid coordinators; stakeholder groups; using the garden regularly to teach nutrition, environmental science, and sustainability; parent and community involvement; greenhouses and winter programs; selling garden items for funding; small group sizes; student leadership; and planned maintenance over breaks. Because of their promising potential, I recommend that, through the Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization, policymakers in the United States appoint state-level farm to school staff members and increase grant funding to adequately support school garden programs.


school gardens, school kitchen gardens, nutrition, environmental science, sustainability, local food