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Home HortTechnology Community Grafting Project Helps Students Gain Skills, Confidence
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SAN LUIS OBISPO, CA—Higher education programs are experiencing a growing emphasis on service-learning—projects that focus on meeting community needs by applying students' newly acquired academic knowledge and technical skills. Students in all disciplines are participating in learning activities that occur outside classroom walls.

Lauren C, Garner, the author of a new study published in HortTechnology, examined the impact of service learning opportunities on aspects of university pomology (fruit cultivation) courses. "We investigated whether service learning provides a sound pedagogical approach to teach horticultural techniques while also meeting broader university learning objectives, including fostering critical thinking, communication, teamwork, and community involvement," said Garner.

Garner studied undergraduate students who participated in a service-learning project while enrolled in an introductory pomology course at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obisbo, from 2007–2010. As part of their experience, the students helped members of the community-based organization California Rare Fruit Growers (CRFG) teach grafting skills to San Luis Obispo County high school students and other community members.

At the end of each quarter the college students completed evaluations of their experience. "Self-reported and instructor evaluations of the project demonstrated that students increased their technical skills, confidence in learning new skills, and interest in fruit science and community involvement," Garner noted. The service-learning project also enabled students to meet broader university learning objectives such as "developing critical thinking and communication skills" and "increasing community involvement".

Garner found that several themes emerged from students' responses to the open-ended questions on the evaluation. When describing what they liked about the project, students frequently responded that they enjoyed interacting with community members by teaching them how to graft. The students also remarked that the experience had improved their own grafting skills.

As of the report's publication date, 94 Cal Poly students had participated in the CRFG grafting project. "At Cal Poly, this is a sustainable activity," Garner said. "Students can and have continued to participate with the CRFG grafting program beyond the course requirement, including coming back in future years. This increases community knowledge about the university and enhances its reputation as a leader in horticultural education."


The complete study and abstract are available on the ASHS HortTechnology electronic journal web site:

Founded in 1903, the American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS) is the largest organization dedicated to advancing all facets of horticultural research, education, and application. More information at


Original Article:

Meeting Learning Objectives through Service-Learning: A Pomology Case Study
Lauren C. Garner
HortTechnology 21:119–125. [Abstract] [Full Text] [PDF]

Corresponding author. E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it