First Advisor

Heather Burns

Term of Graduation

Spring 2022

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Education: Educational Leadership and Policy


Educational Leadership and Policy





Physical Description

1 online resource (v, 134 pages)


Education can play a critical role in empowering learners to address the global, complex, and interconnected sustainability problems humanity currently faces. Ecoliteracy, as an educational aim, may support the cultivation of values, attitudes, and skills required for the development of sustainability solutions and our collective ability to design regenerative ways of living. However, empirical research that explores and supports the development of ecoliteracy in adults is limited. This grounded theory action research study aimed to contribute to this body of knowledge. This study explored how adult ecoliteracy and practical gardening skills may be cultivated through an intentionally designed, holistic, garden-based internship program. Participants of the study were Portland State University students who chose to take part in this 8-week internship at Learning Gardens Laboratory, in Portland, Oregon, in the summer of 2021. The findings showed that internship engagement supported the cultivation of ecoliteracy in participants. Interns experienced an increase in ecological knowledge, developed attitudes of care and stewardship, and gained practical competencies that may support the application of this learning in other contexts. In some cases, participants experienced a sense of personal transformation, including shifts in their perspectives or worldviews, and changes in their planned life path and future goals. In addition, participants' practical gardening and food production skills advanced. Learning occurred through relationships in three thematic categories: interpersonal relationships; intrapersonal relationships; and relationships with land, place, and more-than-human beings. These outcomes are directly aligned with ecoliteracy literature, and suggest that transformative sustainability education theory, as well as place-based and experiential learning pedagogies (among others), offer strategies that support ecoliteracy development in adults. The results of this study demonstrate that education for ecoliteracy is ideally situated in a garden-based learning environment.


© 2022 Shevawn Armstrong

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