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Green walls for a restorative classroom environment: A controlled evaluation study

Summary


A green wall can support children’s cognitive functioning and make the classroom a more attractive place for students

The purpose of this study was to investigate the restorative impact of green walls in four classrooms of two elementary schools in Amsterdam. The green walls were of the “Wall so green” type consisting of a metal frame with layers of felt providing fertile soil for the plants attached to the frame. A tank at the bottom of the frame — which must be filled every two weeks — provides water for the plants through a circulation system. One such frame was installed in each of the four classrooms and stocked with eight different kinds of green plants.

A total of 170 children in grade levels 5 – 7 provided data for this study: 84 in the classrooms with green walls and 86 in classrooms without the green walls. Each of the two participating schools had two classrooms with green walls and two classrooms without green walls. All of the participating students completed paper and pencil attention and processing speed tests and self-administered questionnaires prior to the placement of the green walls and 2 and 4 months after placement. Most of the items on the child-friendly questionnaire were selected and adapted from materials used in previous studies including research on the greening of schoolyards. The same procedures were used for each administration and included assessment of students’ attentional capacity, their emotional, cognitive, and social well-being, and their evaluation of the classroom. For the two follow-up measurements, the children in the classrooms with green walls answered additional questions specifically about the green wall.

Findings indicated that children in classrooms with a green wall scored better on selective attention measures and rated their classrooms as more attractive than children in classrooms without a green wall. The positive effects of the green wall on children’s selective attention are consistent with previous research indicating that a natural environment can support and enhance cognitive functioning in both children and adults. The finding that the green wall positively influenced children’s evaluation of their classroom is also consistent with previous studies on plants in classrooms. Unexpectedly, there were no measurable effects of the green wall on children’s self-reported well-being. Possible explanations for this are presented by the authors.

Overall, the findings of this study indicate that a green wall can support children’s cognitive functioning and make the classroom a more attractive place for students.

Citation

van den Berg, A.E., Wesselius, J.E., Maas, J., Tanja-Dijkstra, K., (2017). Green walls for a restorative classroom environment: A controlled evaluation study. Environment and Behavior, 49(7), 791-813.

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