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  • Author or Editor: Amy McFarland x
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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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Food waste is one of the most abundant materials contributing to landfills in the United States. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates 96% of uneaten food ends up in landfills. Food and other organic wastes generate potent greenhouse gases in the atmosphere precipitating global climate change. College campus cafeterias generate a large amount of food waste and some universities are making efforts to capture and compost food waste. The purpose of this study was to measure the relationship between participation in a university composting program and students’ environmental attitudes, environmental locus of control (refers to the belief that an individual’s actions play a direct role in the result of any affair), compost knowledge, and compost attitudes. Undergraduate and graduate students were given a survey, which included an environmental attitude scale, an environmental locus of control inventory and sections where students reported their composting habits, knowledge of the composting process, and how composting made them feel. A total of 660 surveys were collected from two universities, one that acted as the treatment and the other as the control group. The results indicated a statistically significant difference between the school with a composting program and the school without a composting program on the variables of environmental attitudes, environmental locus of control, and composting knowledge. Furthermore, composting attitudes were positively related to environmental attitudes, environmental locus of control, and compost knowledge at the university with a composting program. Demographic comparisons found differences within the treatment group on the composting attitude and knowledge and environmental attitude inventories but not locus of control.

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The purpose of this study was to examine the ability of preschool gardening programs to help children develop their ability to delay gratification. Children today face many opportunities for instant gratification, although the ability to delay gratification in early childhood has been linked to numerous benefits later in life. Opportunities to train children in the ability to delay gratification present educational challenges, in that it competes with other academic training needs, and it can be difficult to find programs that are interesting to young children. The population for this study was preschool children ranging in age from 2 to 6 years, with treatment and control groups drawn from different schools. Participants were tested individually and timed to determine their ability to delay gratification, with promises of larger rewards if the child could wait for 15 minutes. The results of this study did not identify a significant change in all children’s ability to delay gratification after a gardening program. However, analyses showed that females appear to have responded more positively to the gardening treatment in their ability to delay gratification, whereas males in the control group benefited more from traditional school lessons.

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Although some benefits of gardening have been documented, motivations regarding participation in gardening are often considered based on anecdote. The purpose of this study was to use qualitative analysis to explore reasons gardeners from different genders and generations participate in gardening. The questions developed for this study were intentionally exploratory and left open-ended to gather a large variety of responses. Surveys were collected from 177 individuals between the ages of 7 and 94 years old. Responses were categorized into themes identified through the literature review, the pilot study, and through exploration of the data. Responses could fit into as many categories as were mentioned by the respondents and were categorized by three independent coders. Interrater reliability was assessed using a two-way mixed, absolute agreement, average measures intraclass correlation (ICC) and determined the degree to which coders provided consistency in their ratings across participants. Themes developed through this survey included “social interaction,” “aesthetics,” “food availability/health/nutrition,” “economics,” “therapeutic,” “environmental benefits,” “nostalgia,” and “personal productivity.” Themes of personal productivity and nostalgia are those which have not occurred in previous research. Statistically significant differences were found in comparisons among males and females with more males gardening for food/health/nutrition and for reasons regarding nostalgia. More females reported gardening for personal productivity when compared with males. No significant difference was identified in comparisons of gardeners from various age groups indicating that gardeners across generations have similar intentions and receive similar benefits.

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Visual-motor integration is influential in childhood development. Historical anecdotal evidence supports gardening as aiding in children’s development of fine and gross motor skills. The main objective of this study was to examine the effect of a school gardening program on children’s development of visual-motor integration. Preschool children ages 2 to 6 years old enrolled in private tuition-based schools were included in the sample. For 6 months, control group students studied using a traditional school curriculum whereas treatment group students participated in gardening as part of their lessons. The Beery-Buktenica visual-motor integration short-form instrument was used to quantitatively measure students’ levels of visual-motor integration. No significant differences were found in overall comparisons between the treatment and control group students. However, in demographic comparisons, significance was found; standardized scores for males in the treatment group improved whereas scores for males in the control group decreased. Results indicated that male preschoolers may respond especially well to gardening programs in the classroom in developing visual-motor integration.

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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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The number of asthma cases in children has increased significantly in the last couple of decades. Studies on links between outdoor air pollutants and asthma have had mixed results, suggesting the need for more focused studies. An increase in tree plantings for urban areas is now being called upon as a solution to the higher heat indexes and pollution rates for more densely populated areas. Green spaces and trees could further benefit some urban areas by providing an effective means to improve air conditions. The purpose of this study was to assess whether there is a relationship between levels of vegetation and reported rates of childhood asthma in Texas. Childhood asthma data were collected from the Center for Health Statistics and the Texas Department of State Health Services for the years 2005 and 2006. The asthma rates for each metropolitan statistical area (MSA) were mapped and inserted into a corresponding vegetation map using geographical mapping software. A comparison of vegetation rates and asthma rates in metropolitan areas was used to investigate whether vegetation and tree cover led to higher or lower incidences of childhood asthma rates. Asthma data, normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI), and canopy cover data were analyzed using statistical software. Regression analysis and correlations were calculated to analyze the data for the tree coverage/vegetation rates and asthma rates variable. No statistically significant relationships between NDVI, canopy cover, and asthma were found in this study.

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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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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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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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