Recently, my 6-year-old son started a SmartFit class. The idea behind SmartFit is that children aren’t meant to sit still all day long while learning. Our bodies are meant to move to achieve all that we’re capable of—physically and mentally.
In this class, my son will do a short physical activity and then launch into a school activity, whether it’s a word finder where he’s reading and spelling letters or a math problem where he’s solving equations. He’s been to two classes and already I see a difference. He loves the physical activity and it seems to sharpen his mental ability as well. During the first class, I taught this kindergartner negative numbers in a matter of minutes—something he hadn’t even learned in school yet.
There are many things inside of a classroom that are critical to learning, but imagine the things outside of that classroom window that can make an impact.
In addition to physical activity, nice landscaping is continually proving to be one of those mental boosters.
A new study of high school students in central Illinois found that students with a view of trees were able to recover their ability to pay attention and bounce back from stress more rapidly than those who looked out on a parking lot or had no windows.
The researchers, William Sullivan, professor of landscape architecture at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Dongying Li, a doctorate student at the university, reported their findings in the Landscape and Urban Planning journal.
“Schools surrounding landscapes have been too long overlooked for their impact on learning, and it’s time to understand what campus greenery—or lack thereof—means for student performance,” the researchers state.
“Green views produced better attentional functioning and stress recovery,” they explain.
“Furthermore, viewing nature helps both cognition and stress recovery, but through separate mental pathways,” they add. “In other words, nature’s ability to help us recover our ability to pay attention has nothing to do with whether we are stressed out or not, but nature, separately, also helps us recover from stress.”
In fact, based on this research, one might even call these landscapes that provide views outside of classrooms “smart scapes.”