An important element of the social horticulture program at the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension has been the creation of school gardens to enhance educational efforts for children in Las Vegas. Since 2002, a variety of methods has been employed to train teachers and administrators in using gardens, and this has resulted in establishment of successful gardening programs. Southern Nevada has experienced a 400% population increase in 25 years. Results of surveys of area stakeholders between 2000 and 2002, Clark County elementary school staff in 2001, and Clark County school principals in 2004, indicate a desire to incorporate gardens in schools, but concerns about establishing and maintaining them persist. Furthermore, apprehension about trying to garden under challenging climatic conditions characteristic of the Mojave Desert is expressed frequently, as is hesitation about using gardens to enhance the school curriculum in at-risk schools. When offered training in use of gardens, however, a majority of principals surveyed responded positively. They also expressed interest in tracking the educational and social impacts of gardens on students and faculty. This article reports on results of community stakeholder meetings and surveys of Clark County schools, as well as the methods that are being used to create a school gardens program in the most rapidly growing metropolis in the United States.
This study used quantitative and qualitative methods to investigate the impact of indoor gardening on elderly residents of a low-income assisted living facility over a 4-week period. Mastery, self-rated health, and self-rated happiness were pre-, post-, and post-post measured to evaluate whether a short-term introduction of indoor gardening that involved individual plant-care responsibility would improve these measures that are predictive of health and quality of life. Eighteen residents participated in four 2-hour interactive horticulture classes taught by a social horticulturist and a sociologist. Class members showed a significant increase in mastery, self-rated health, and self-rated happiness. The results of this study indicate that a basic horticultural activity, as simple as learning how to maintain a houseplant and taking individual responsibility for one, can have a short-term positive impact on the quality of life and on primary indicators of future health outcomes of older adults residing in assisted living facilities.
Extension Master Gardener (EMG) volunteers are central to expanding the outreach and engagement of extension staff. A workshop format was used at the Annual Conference of the American Society for Horticultural Science on 31 July 2012 in Miami, FL to identify successful management techniques and projects that expand EMG volunteer outreach, leading to increased extension effectiveness. One program leader described how EMGs manage a farmer’s market that has been thriving for more than 30 years, generating income for the EMG program as well as the county extension office. Another program leader described a beneficial partnership between EMGs and the university in which EMGs grow plants for demonstration gardens and classroom use, facilitating learning for university students, EMGs, and the public. EMGs in another program have assumed much of the management role of the university orchard, using it for teaching and demonstrations. The final discussion focused on extension programs that used volunteers to assist in conducting research to expand extension’s capabilities, and also increasing EMGs’ understanding of the research process. All projects emphasized the need for extension agents to empower volunteers to take on leadership and decision-making roles as well as the value of EMGs to extension.