Cultivating Scientific Literacy and Action through Place: Campus Farm as Interdisciplinary Hub

Brandon Sorge
Associate Professor
Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis

With the upswing in undergraduate interest in sustainability and community engagement, college campus farms—especially those at urban institutions—provide the rich, interdisciplinary social context of urban and sustainable agriculture that spans the entire suite of social and physical sciences, as well as non- STEM fields including business, pharmacy, religious studies, and communications. Expanding the curricular role of a campus farm beyond sustainability and agriculture courses can increase collaboration among diverse faculty, raise farm spaces as curricular resources, and improve student outcomes related to environmental science literacy, place attachment, and civic mindedness in STEM and non-STEM disciplines. This research focused on implementing Place-Based Experiential (PBEL) Learning in 10 courses and measuring its impact on student learning, environmental scientific literacy, scientific reasoning, place meaning, place attachment, and civic mindedness. Faculty for each of these courses participated in a Faculty and Staff Learning Community to support the development of their course specific farm modules.

Guiding Questions
This research is guided by the following research questions:

How, if at all, does participation in a Faculty and Staff Learning Community impact implementation fidelity?

Do student outcomes related to place meaning and attachment improve through PBEL farm hub module experiences?

Does significant attachment and ascribed meaning to the campus farm predict high environmental science literacy and civic-mindedness scores?

How, if at all, does program implementation fidelity and PBEL best practices impact student learning outcomes?

Each course implemented their PBEL module, focused on an urban farm. Baseline and treatment data were collected. Treatment data were collected from 166 students who completed both the pre- and post-surveys. Significant student findings included the following
• Statistically significant increase in civic-mindedness (p<.001, Cohen’s d=.797)
• Statistically significant increase in environmental scientific literacy (p<.001, Cohen’s d=.329)
• Statistically significant increase in place attachment (home, institution, Farm) (p<.001, Cohen’s d=.654, .399, .369)
• Statistically significant increase in place-meaning of the farm (p<.001, Cohen’s d=.553).
• Post-environmental scientific literacy and post-Institution place attachment were statistically significant predictors of a student’s post-civic mindedness score (R2=.620, F(2,163)=133.252, P<.001)

For faculty, eight of the ten participating faculty completed a survey at the end of the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 academic year (1 participant did not complete and the PI was not asked to complete). A statistically significant increase in faculty civics self-efficacy, t(7)=-9.322, p<.001 was found. Additionally, faculty civic-mindedness showed positive increase, t(7)=2.088, p=.075, Cohen’s d=.738.

Broader Impacts
The broader impacts have included the integration of the campus farm into 20+ additional courses making the Center for Urban Ecology and its campus farm a more integral component of the campus environment. This has led to additional institutional funding in support of the campus farm allowing it to broaden its impact on the campus and the community. This work has also enhanced awareness around sustainability and food initiatives on campus at both the administrative and student level. There are now student fees, charged at the request of the student council, to support student initiatives in these areas.


Grant Fore, IUPUI, Indianapolis, IN; Francesca Williamson, IU School of Medicine, Indianapolis, IN; Julia Angstmann. Butler University, Indianapolis, IN