Teens as Teachers in the Garden: Cultivating a Sustainable Model for Teaching Healthy Living


  • Virginia L. J. Bolshakova Purdue University
  • John Gieng San Jose State Univeristy
  • C. Sheena Sidhu University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources
  • Mary Vollinger University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources
  • Lorena Gimeno University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources
  • Jessica Guild University of California Santa Cruz




teen teachers, garden, healthy living, logic model, after-school, cultural competency


School gardens are an ideal space to deliver a healthy living curriculum, such as nutrition and physical activity education, to elementary school youth. However, public schools often lack the resources and support to establish sustainable garden-based programming. We created the Healthy Living Ambassador program, a collaborative after-school garden program in low-income communities that brought together resources from schools, community programs, and University of California Cooperative Extension. This school garden program featured culturally competent teens as teachers to serve as near-peer educators and mentors to elementary school youth. The program development model incorporated lessons from sustainable community-based health program interventions and essential elements of teens-as-teachers programs. We share the program logic model and discuss the successes and challenges of this program model that we encountered while developing a long-term, maintainable community garden program to teach healthy living.

Author Biographies

Virginia L. J. Bolshakova, Purdue University

Department of Curriculum & Instruction

Assistant Research Professor

Director of Out-of-School Learning, Indiana GEAR UP

John Gieng, San Jose State Univeristy

Assistant Professor of Nutrition

C. Sheena Sidhu, University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources

Staff Research Associate

Mary Vollinger, University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources

UC CalFresh Nutrition Program Supervisor


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