Publication Date


Document Type


Committee Members

Yoko Miura, Ed.D. (Committee Chair) Mary Brydon-Miller, Ph.D. (Committee Member); Alan Wight, Ph.D. (Committee Member); Daniel Warshawsky, Ph.D. (Committee Member); Michelle Fleming, Ph.D. (Committee Member)

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Although school gardens have been increasingly popular in the United States, much existing literature evaluated success of the programs from a limited set of criteria, such as the extent to which gardens reformed student eating habits and nutritional knowledge. Yet, school gardens offered benefits and outcomes not immediately apparent within this reform paradigm. In addition, the attention on forming a particular kind of food consumer ignored the diverse cultural and racial histories related to agriculture and food in the United States. In this participatory action research (PAR) dissertation, participants, including school staff and community partners, explored one school garden program in a historically segregated and disenfranchised community. Through an emancipatory framework described by Freire (1970) and hooks (1994, 2003), participants reflected on and shared how and why they co-created a school garden program during the COVID-19 pandemic and nation-wide protests for racial justice. Through photovoice, mapping, and gardening activities, participants expressed meaning, values, and vision far beyond the typical reformatory goals often measured in school garden studies. Most notably, participants described experiences of love, empowerment, and justice they experienced through the school garden program. Through this research, other school garden programs can identify why a school garden matters to their specific context and how to align the meaning participants feel to future plans for the garden. Most notably, this research demonstrated the value of PAR as a method for cultivating school gardens, gardens as sites for social justice, and the critical role of an ethic of love (hooks, 2006) in building community around garden projects.

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Department or Program

Department of Leadership Studies in Education and Organizations

Year Degree Awarded


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.