The Learning Garden Laboratory (LGL) is a 12-acre garden education site located in Southeast Portland that provides K-12, university students and community members hands-on and place-based education in sustainable gardening, healthy nutrition, and permaculture. Education at LGL supports improved academic achievement, leadership development, and the development of sustainable local food systems Established in 2005, LGL exists as a unique partnership between Portland State University, Portland Public Schools, Portland Parks and Recreation, and Oregon State University Extension Service.
The Learning Gardens Lab serves as model of community-based education focused on a hands-on and practical learning tool: the garden. Through garden-based education and outreach, this site serves Lane Middle School students, PSU students, SUN Program participants, Community Transition School students, OSU Extension Service’s beginning farmers and Master Gardeners, and more.
Garden-based Education with Lane Middle School:
Graduate students enrolled in Portland State University’s Leadership for Sustainability Education (LSE) Program facilitate weekly garden-based science curriculum for Lane Middle School students in collaboration with our science teacher partners from Lane. Over 175 Lane Middle School students from diverse racial, cultural, and socio-economic backgrounds receive instruction each week; they learn through direct, hands-on experience the process of growing and harvesting food, the science of cooking with whole foods, and the importance of good nutrition and eating habits. Perhaps most importantly, students learn to appreciate the interconnection and complexity of our natural world.
Garden-based Education Research:
For several years, a team of researchers from Portland State University’s Psychology department led by Dr. Ellen Skinner conducted ongoing quantitative research about this partnership between the Leadership for Sustainability Education (LSE) program and Lane Middle School, focusing on how participation at the Learning Gardens Lab affects middle school students’ motivation and achievement in school. This team found that middle school students who are more engaged in the Learning Gardens also perform better in school. In fact, despite the high stability of student achievement, engagement in the gardens in the fall predicts improvements in achievement over the school year. Additionally, engagement at LGL leads to more engagement in science, and school in general. These findings are especially important for the students in this study, who are at-risk for poor school performance due to their socioeconomic, minority, and immigrant status (Skinner, 2010). This quantitative study on garden-based education is the only one of its kind in the United States.
Community Education & Outreach:
Graduate Assistants from the LSE program also coordinate the Lane Family Learning Garden for Lane Middle School families who are learning to grow their own food. Coordinators help families prepare land, plant seeds and starts, maintain their plot, and harvest vegetables. In addition, PSU graduate students, OSU Master Gardeners and other volunteers harvest produce from LGL and deliver it to local food banks and local schools, where it is distributed to local families who need it. Typically over 1500 lbs of fresh produce from LGL is donated each year.
Portland State University offers an average of 8-10 senior Capstone service-learning classes per year in partnership with the Learning Gardens Lab including: Sustainable Food Systems and Learning Gardens and Civic Affairs. Capstone students complete service-learning projects and contribute significantly to the development and maintenance of the site, while learning about sustainable gardening. Additionally, many PSU courses require Community-Based Learning and our site is one where these volunteer hours can be fulfilled.
Our partners from Oregon State University’s Extension Service demonstrate sustainable, organic farming techniques at LGL through the Beginning Urban Farmer Apprenticeship Program in partnership with Multnomah County. OSU Extension staff also train and mentor students from the Community Transition Center, a Portland Public School on site, in horticulture. OSU Extension staff also oversee the Master Gardener demonstration garden on the east end of the site and coordinate the maintenance of the trees, grass and the many perennial garden beds at LGL.
The LG Lab is located in SE Portland on 60th Ave across from Brentwood Park between Duke and Flavel.
6801 SE 60th Ave.
Portland, OR 97206 USA
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