Students Perform Better When They See Nature Outside

New research shows that students perform better and recover from stress faster in a classroom with a view of green nature outside.

Students perform better on tests when they’re in a classroom with a view of nature outside.

This finding comes from new research by doctoral student Dongying Li and head of the University of Illinois Department of Landscape Architecture William C. Sullivan.

It’s the first study to establish a causal relationship between exposure to a green view and students’ performance.

“It’s a significant finding, that if you have a green view outside your window, you’ll do better on tests,” said Li.

Students’ capacity to pay attention increased 13 percent if they had a green view outside their classroom window, the study found.

The findings are being published in the April 2016 issue of the journal Landscape and Urban Planning. The article is available for review online.

The authors hypothesized that views onto green landscapes help students recover from mental fatigue and stress. They conducted a randomized controlled experiment with 94 high school students at five high schools in three settings:

  •  a windowless classroom
  • a classroom with a view of built space
  • a classroom with a view of green space

To quote the study highlights:

  • Window views to green landscapes promote high school students’ attention restoration.
  • Window views to green landscapes speed high school students’ recover from stress.
  • Attention restoration and stress recovery are separate pathways.
  • Exposure to daylight alone did not improve student performance.

Additionally, there was no statistical difference in performance for students in the windowless room or the room with a view of built space.

Study co-author Dongying Li hypothesized that the positive showing was a result of Attention Restoration Theory.

“When someone focuses on a task, he or she must ward off other distractions, either those in the environment or the thoughts inside their head, all competing for attention. Doing so causes fatigue, and after a while, a person feels mentally drained.

When someone stops focusing, his or her attention is drawn involuntarily to certain things – a campfire, a waterfall, a baby, a puppy. Focusing on those things doesn’t require effort, and the theory suggests that doing so provides an opportunity for the brain to rest and restore its ability to focus attention again.” – Dongying Li in Science Daily

Students in the classroom with a green view didn’t just do better on attention tests; they also showed greater physiological recovery from stress vs. the students in rooms without a green view.

This appears to be more evidence for the common-sense notion that kids benefit from exposure to nature in hundreds of ways .

Sources:
“A green view through a classroom window can improve students’ performance.”  ScienceDaily, 22 January 2016.
“A Green View Through a Classroom Window Can Improve Students’ Performance, Study Finds” Newswise.com