Greenery promotes mental development in primary-aged children

New study supports importance of greenness in schools

25 June 2015

A new study, reported in the USA journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), has found that the mental development of primary-aged children is affected by the amount of green space they can see from school.
 
While green space is already known to improve mental and physical health, there has until now been little research into the impact of green space on children’s learning.
 
Lower pollution rates are already known to impact on children’s development, but this 12-month study monitoring the changes in cognitive development of 2,593 children aged 7 to 10 across 36 primary schools in Barcelona has shown that this is not the full story.
 
Using satellite data to work out how much green space each child was exposed to, at home, school and while commuting, researchers found “an improvement in cognitive development associated with surrounding greenness, particularly with greenness at schools”. On average, green space within 50 metres of a school enhanced children’s working memory by 5% and problem-solving speed by 6% and a 1% reduction in inattentiveness.
 
Improvements were also associated with “total surrounding greenness” including around the home, school and during the child’s commute.
 
Adding the effects of a reduction in carbon pollution to the models explained between 20 and 65% of the association between green space and children’s mental development - leaving at least 35% of the effect unexplained by pollution levels.
 
The researchers suggested the effect could be due to higher average physical activity levels among children who spent time in gardens and parks, as well as exposure to bacteria which helped with brain development.
 
Source: Horticulture Week and PNAS
 
For great ideas, lesson plans and activities to get your pupils and students out into the school garden, head to our resources page.

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