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Student performance and high school landscapes: Examining the links

Summary


Exposure to nature during school hours is positively associated with high school student performance

This study examined the association between student performance and high school landscapes. Two areas of performance were considered: academic achievement and behavior. Included in the study were 101 high schools in southeastern Michigan. Information about each school was obtained from school personnel and through inventories of the schools and surrounding landscapes conducted by the researcher. Additional information about the schools and students was obtained from the State Department of Education and other public records.

The investigation into student exposure to nature at each school involved three groups of measures: views of nature from the school buildings; vegetation levels on the school grounds; and student potential access to the vegetation. The level of naturalness of the view from both the cafeteria and academic classrooms was rated on a five-point scale ranging from “no view” to “all natural.” Three measures of academic achievement were used: Michigan merit awards, graduation rates, and plans to attend a four-year college. Measures of behavior included reported instances of student disorderly conduct and student criminal activity.

The most significant finding according to the researcher was the discovery of a positive relationship between student exposure to nature during lunch time and scores on standardized tests, graduation rates, and plans to attend a four-year college. Findings also indicated that not all forms of vegetation are positively associated with academic achievement and behavior. While the presence of trees and shrubs had a positive relationship to achievement, aspirations and behavior, expanses of grassy areas were negatively associated with standardized test scores, four-year college plans, and criminal behavior.

Citation

Matsuoka, R.H., (2010). Student performance and high school landscapes: Examining the links. Landscape and Urban Planning, 97(4), 273-282.

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