THE URBAN EDIBLE SCHOOLYARD: CASE STUDY EVALUATIONS IN PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA

Open Access
Author:
Dimond, Kirk W
Graduate Program:
Landscape Architecture
Degree:
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
May 02, 2011
Committee Members:
  • Kenneth Tamminga, Thesis Advisor
Keywords:
  • community involvement
  • environments for children
  • Pittsburgh schools
  • urban agriculture
  • schoolyard gardens
  • Edible schoolyards
  • catalytic landscape design
Abstract:
Schoolyard vegetable gardens are springing up on school grounds across the nation. The many benefits cultivated by schoolchildren in edible schoolyards are widely accepted by parents, teachers, and administrators. The gardens, however, have the potential to reach beyond the classroom and into the community. Through garden volunteer programs, gardening, workshops, and successful displays of nearby schoolyard gardens, community members can be encouraged to participate in growing and harvesting fresh local produce. Some of the many potential benefits to the community include increased food security, healthier diets, greater physical activity, more convivial community interactions, enhanced neighborhood beautification, and the sense of individual and collective pride that comes with these achievements. The location and physical design of the garden plays an important role in how well it relates to the community and the extent of its use. While there are several universal principles to designing these outdoor classrooms, different localities bring different challenges, even within the same school district. Understanding the site and the neighborhood context informs the garden design to maximize the benefits to both the students and the community. This case study research examines four edible schoolyards sponsored by the non-profit group Grow Pittsburgh in the Pittsburgh Public Schools district. Each school represents a distinct neighborhood demographic within the urban environment. Site inventories and analyses are made to understand the context and makeup of the gardens. Key informant interviews with a representative from Grow Pittsburgh, teachers, parents and custodians give further insight into the successes and challenges from an insider’s view of issues pertaining to the physical design of the gardens. A literature review aids in establishing a broader understanding of schoolyard gardening and neighborhood participation. This study is ultimately designed to reveal the extent to which schoolyard gardens and surrounding communities interact. It is also intended to assist in the understanding and articulation of design and management principles that could be applied to these specific gardens and others with similar contexts. Finally, this research provides a protocol to approaching and understanding opportunities in other existing or proposed schoolyard gardens to more fully relate to the community and fulfill their full potential.