Increasingly common heatwaves have prompted discussions about transforming playgrounds into green islands in various parts of the world. Such an initiative would not only make these spaces more adapted to global warming; they could also help contribute to the well-being of schoolchildren.
A recent study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health shows just how positive the effects of greenery can be on their behaviour at school.
British-American researchers have discovered that the simple fact of seeing trees through classroom windows can be beneficial to pupils in the areas of aggression, anxiety, and attentiveness. To reach this conclusion, they conducted an experiment with 86 children aged seven to nine, enrolled in 15 classes at three schools in East Lansing in Michigan, United States.
These schools are all surrounded by greenery – mainly trees and shrubs. The research team noted that children whose classrooms overlooked green spaces showed fewer behavioural problems than those who couldn’t see nature from their desks.
“Children spending their days in classrooms with greater average-per-window views of nature were rated as demonstrating fewer externalising behaviour problems at home and school,” the study said.
However, the researchers found that this beneficial effect was more closely linked to trees than to any other natural element. Students with a view of the sky from their classrooms were not as calm and attentive.
Multiple benefits of nature
This observation is in line with the findings of a previous Swedish study, published in the journal “Health & Place” in 2009. The authors of that research study encouraged municipalities to plant as much as possible in and around schools, so that pupils could enjoy the multiple benefits of nature.
A number of studies have shown that trees help us establish balance in our lives, significantly lowering levels of stress, exhaustion and anxiety. One of them, published in 1984 in the National Library of Medicine, even showed that convalescents in a hospital with a room overlooking a park recovered faster than others.
However, the results of this new study should be treated with caution as it has a number of limitations. The researchers didn’t take into account the size of classroom windows, for instance, or the fact that schoolchildren don’t spend their entire school day indoors.
They also spend time in the cafeteria, library, gymnasium and other areas, which ideally should also be surrounded by vegetation for a boost in their well-being.