Teaching in the Garden: School Gardens as a Space for Environmental and English Learning


  • Baerbel Turner-Hill University of Education Karlsruhe
  • Christian Ludwig Freie Universität Berlin
  • Lena Böttger Pädagogische Hochschule Karlsruhe




garden-based education, school gardens, critical environmental literacy


      School gardens as settings for learning outside the classroom are becoming increasingly popular. They allow students to learn in an authentic way as they engage in a variety of activities and materials. More importantly, they also represent a powerful place and tool for environmental education as students are not only exposed to nature but also gain positive environmental experiences. This paper examines school gardens as a place for both enhancing students’ English language competences and fostering critical environmental literacy. The first section of the paper focuses on garden-based education as a type of learning outside the classroom. The ensuing section then provides a brief discussion of school gardens as learning spaces across the curriculum, arguing that school gardens are far more than places for learning about nutrition and healthy living. Following this, the next section then argues for using school gardens also for learning English as a foreign language. Here Gardner’s multiple intelligences model serves to illustrate the potential of school gardens for differentiated instruction regarding content, processes, and products in today’s increasingly diverse learning groups. The main part of the paper then concentrates on garden-based education in the context of EFL teacher training. At the University of Education Karlsruhe (Germany) students have the opportunity to attend a school garden-based seminar which allows them to experience first hand the benefits of learning English as a foreign language in the school garden. The paper concludes by taking a glimpse into the future of school garden learning by reporting on the authors’ experiences with using technology in the context of garden-based education.


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Author Biographies

Baerbel Turner-Hill, University of Education Karlsruhe

Bärbel Turner-Hill held a full-time lecturing position at the University of Education Karlsruhe until 2017. Her research interests include teaching British children and young adult literature, British cultural studies, and integrating nature, literature, and culture in cross-curricular contexts. 

Christian Ludwig, Freie Universität Berlin

Christian Ludwig is currently visiting professor at the Freie Universität Berlin. He researches and teaches in the field of ELT, particularly focusing on technology in English as a foreign language learning, environmental learning, and using literary texts in the digital classroom. 


Lena Böttger, Pädagogische Hochschule Karlsruhe

Lena Böttger is currently M.Ed. student at the University of Education Karlsruhe. She has been involved in various projects of the English Department at the University of Education Karlsruhe, including, for example, events in the school garden. Her interests include developing students’ environmental awareness and poetry. 






Articles: Going Green in the EFL classroom