The first warm weather here in the UK generally means a few things – the impending start of tennis at Wimbledon, school examination time, and the smell of cut grass. Inevitably, pupils and teachers start to wish they were outdoors and not stuck in a classroom. There is now a growing body of evidence why teachers should respond to these urges and incorporate outdoor places into their teaching and the school day more widely.
A new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by a team of researchers from Spain, Norway, and the US found that time spent near or in green places, especially those in and around schools, can improve learners’ cognitive development. Payam Dadvand and colleagues found that pupils’ ability in memory tasks and to maintain attention improved over time if their schools had green spaces on their campus and nearby.
The study involved 2,500 children aged seven to ten in Barcelona, who were tested every three months over a 12-month period. The researchers found small but significant improvements in “working memory”, “superior working memory” and “attentiveness” in pupils with green areas near and in their schools. Importantly, in this rigorous study, the effects of greenness were found regardless of the socio-economic background and education of parents.
The Spanish-led team sought mainly to explain and explore the medical reasons for their findings. It could be, the authors argue, that with green spaces children are less exposed to traffic and the kinds of pollutants that…
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