Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Empathy in children, School gardens-Psychological aspects, School gardens-Social aspects, Child development, Gardening-Therapeutic use, Empathy, Gardens, Horticultural therapy, Social and emotional learning


The purpose of this research study was to explore the effects of school garden programs on children's social and emotional development, specifically the development of empathy as measured by prosocial behaviors. This exploratory study employed qualitative research methods to interview six children, three parents, and two teachers involved in the Berkeley Independent Study (BIS) garden in Berkeley, California, gathering data regarding the participants' observations and experiences of the garden program. The findings suggest that there are many aspects of school garden programs that may positively influence children's social and emotional development. The significance of community, attachment, teaching respect for life, encouraging openness, the impact of the natural world, and creating opportunities for mastery were major themes identified and discussed at length by participants from all three sample populations. The adult participants spoke specifically to the impact of the garden activities on the children's social behavior, emotional regulation skills, and capacity for empathy. Additionally, the potential for school garden programs to contribute to better food security among students and their families is significantly linked to overall wellness, including mental health stability in individuals.




ii, 106 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2012. Includes bibliographical references (p. 89-94)