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Amy L. McFarland

Research investigating the relationship between physical environments and various aspects of quality of life have found that people who live or work near natural areas have improved health and increased levels of satisfaction at home, work, and with life in general. Research has also shown that workers who performed their job function in offices with windows or interior plants had higher job satisfaction. The purpose of the current study was to investigate the relationship between the use of green spaces and public gardens in the work place on mental well-being, overall quality of life, and job satisfaction. The sample for this study was drawn from participants who were on the contact list of public garden employees and volunteers for a winter in-service training hosted by the Smithsonian Gardens (Washington, DC). Participants were e-mailed asking for their participation in the survey. An incentive of winning a greenhouse tour was used to improve the response rate. A total of 105 usable surveys were received out of 423 invitations that were sent for a response rate of 24.8%. Participants were asked to respond to questions regarding their work environment, mental well-being, overall quality of life, and job satisfaction. Differences were identified based on whether the participant was a paid employee or unpaid worker. Based on time spent outdoors during the workday, the only difference within the overall group existed with regard to how frequently the participant ate outdoors and their reported mental well-being. On the quality of life questions, differences for the overall sample, the paid group, and the unpaid group were found for having window views of plants or nature. On the job satisfaction question, differences were identified in the overall sample and the paid group for having a window in their immediate office or workplace. Several variables did not identify any statistically significant difference, which might result from this sample being already largely connected to nature due to their employment or volunteer work within a public garden.

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Ghazal Tarar, Coleman L. Etheredge, Amy McFarland, Amy Snelgrove, Tina M. Waliczek, and Jayne M. Zajicek

One-third of Americans are reportedly living with extreme stress, with 75% to 90% of visits to primary care physicians being for stress-related problems. Past research found visiting green areas lowers blood pressure, reduces headache and fatigue, improves mood, and hastens recovery from stress. The main objective for this study was to determine if stress-related illness rates in regions of Texas were related to vegetation rates and tree canopy cover. Data on the stress-related illnesses of high blood pressure and heart attacks were collected from the Center for Health Statistics and the Texas Department of State Health Services for all 25 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) in Texas. MSAs are counties or group of counties with a central city or urbanized area of at least 50,000 people. Percent canopy cover was calculated for each MSA using the Multi-Resolution Land Characteristics National Land Cover Data canopy cover dataset. Vegetation rates for all the MSAs were examined and mapped for illustration using geographical information system (GIS) software. Visual relationships among the data were observed. Quantitative data were also analyzed. When mapping stress-related illness rate into MSA regions of Texas, no clear trend was observed with vegetation rates or percent tree canopy cover when compared with stress-related illness rates. Semipartial correlations were calculated to analyze the relationship between tree canopy cover and vegetation rate and stress-related illness rate variables after controlling the effect of external variables like income levels, age, population, and ethnicity. There was no significant positive or negative relationship found between stress-related illness data when compared with percent canopy and vegetation index for any the 25 MSAs of Texas.

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Amy L. McFarland, Benjamin J. Glover, Tina M. Waliczek, and Jayne M. Zajicek

The purpose of this study was to determine if participation in the National Wildlife Federation’s (NWF) Schoolyard Habitat Program (SYHP) had an effect on the science standardized test scores or science grades of fourth-grade primary school students in Houston, TX. To conduct the study, five pairs of Houston elementary schools were selected as either treatment or control schools. The treatment group included a total of 148 fourth-grade students whose teachers reported using the NWF’s SYHP. The control group consisted of a total of 248 fourth-grade students whose teachers used a traditional science curriculum. To measure academic achievement, scores on a standardized science test and science grades were compared between the treatment and control students. Results from this study indicated Caucasian students scored higher than minority students on the Stanford standardized science exam. Significant differences existed in the Stanford standardized science exam scores between male and female students for the treatment group only. Overall, the results from this study also showed that the SYHP was equally as effective at science instruction as the traditional curriculum within the Houston Independent School District (HISD) after teachers gained familiarity with using the habitat for instruction.

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Aime J. Sommerfeld, Amy L. McFarland, Tina M. Waliczek, and Jayne M. Zajicek

New dietary guidelines recommend eating more than five servings of fruit and vegetables each day without setting upper limitations. Although older adults tend to report a higher intake of fruit and vegetables than other age groups, over half of the U.S. older population does not meet the recommendation of five daily servings of fruit and vegetables. Research has shown that gardening is one way of improving fruit and vegetable intake. The primary focuses of this study were to examine and compare fruit and vegetable consumption of gardeners and nongardeners and to investigate any differences in fruit and vegetable consumption of long-term gardeners when compared with newer gardeners in adults older than age 50 years. An online survey was designed to be answered by older adults (50 years or older) and respondents self-selected themselves for inclusion in the study. A total of 261 questionnaires was completed. Data collected were analyzed using statistical procedures, including descriptive statistics, Pearson's product-moment correlations, and multivariate analysis of variance. The results of this research supports previous studies that indicated gardeners were more likely to consume vegetables when compared with nongardeners. However, these results were not found with regard to fruit consumption between gardeners and nongardeners. Additionally, the length of time an individual reported having participated in gardening activities seemed to have no relationship to the number of vegetables and fruit reported as consumed, which suggests gardening intervention programs late in life would be an effective method of boosting vegetable and fruit consumption in older adults. Gender was also evaluated with no statistically significant differences found for overall fruit and vegetable intake.

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Danielle E. Hammond, Amy L. McFarland, Jayne M. Zajicek, and Tina M. Waliczek

The objective of this study was to investigate the relationship between parental attitudes toward nature and their child's outdoor recreation and how these attitudes related to their reports of their child's health problems. The sample for this study consisted of parents of 6- to 13-year-old children from the United States, who accessed the survey from an informational website for gardeners between Mar. and Aug. 2009. Surveys were collected until 142 completed questionnaires were received. The online survey included questions about parents' attitude toward nature, parents' attitudes toward their child's outdoor recreation, an inventory of potential children's health problems, the time children spent in various indoor and outdoor activities, and demographic questions. Descriptive statistics were used to tabulate mean scores on the parental attitude toward nature (PAN) scale and parental attitude toward their child's outdoor recreation (PACOR) scale, both of which indicated overall positive views. Pearson's product–moment correlations indicated statistically significant relationships between the PAN scale, the PACOR scale, and time children spent outdoors. Relationships between time spent indoors on video games or watching television and health problems in children were identified. Time spent outdoors in free play was inversely related to reports of health problems in children.

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Amy L. McFarland, Danielle E. Hammond, Jayne M. Zajicek, and Tina M. Waliczek

The purpose of this study was to develop an instrument to measure parental attitude toward nature (PAN) and parental attitude toward their child's outdoor recreation (PACOR) to allow researchers to better understand the factors influencing children's outdoor recreation and suggest programs for changing the recent decline in outdoor activity in children. The construction of this instrument followed the Dillman method of constructing survey instruments to improve response rates and to ensure higher quality results. Two scales were developed in three phases. In the first phase, an initial set of instrument questions were developed by adapting questions from previous research. The accumulated questions were then pilot tested and revised based on feedback and reliability. Each inventory was then tested following Dillman's four stages of survey pretest procedures: stage 1—review by knowledgeable colleagues and analysts, stage 2—interviews to evaluate understanding of instructions and questions, stage 3—pilot testing, and stage 4—a final check. The final Cronbach's alpha reliability analyses of the PAN scale and the PACOR scale indicated high levels of internal consistency. The number of questions was reduced following the results of an “alpha if item deleted” tool within SPSS statistical analysis software to improve internal consistency and to reduce load on participants.

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Geralyn A. Nolan, Amy L. McFarland, Jayne M. Zajicek, and Tina M. Waliczek

Child obesity has become a national concern. Obesity in children ages 6–17 years has more than doubled in the past 30 years. Only 20% of children today consume the recommended daily servings of fruit and vegetables. This trend is even more pronounced in minority populations. Past studies have reported a horticulture-based curriculum, including gardening, can improve children’s attitudes toward eating fruit and vegetables. To investigate whether children of a minority population can benefit from gardening combined with a curriculum on nutrition, research was conducted with elementary schools in a primarily Hispanic region of Texas. Elementary school teachers participating in this research agreed to have school gardens and complete all activities in a curriculum on nutrition provided to them through the Texas Agrilife Extension Service. One hundred and forty-one children in the participating schools completed a pre- and posttest evaluating their nutritional knowledge, preference for fruit and vegetables, and snack choices before and after a gardening program supplemented with nutrition education. Differences were detected between pre- and posttest scores for all three variables. After comparing pre- and posttest scores, it was concluded that gardening and nutritional instruction had a positive effect on students’ nutritional knowledge, fruit and vegetable preference (FVP), and snack choices.