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How green spaces effect educational outcomes

Updated: Jul 18, 2022

Nothing says “Spring” like flowers blooming, birds chirping, and kids counting the days (read: minutes) until summer. Excitement for vacation isn’t the only thing making kids feel restless at school, however. Recent studies show that being indoors six (or more) hours a day hurts kids and their education.

Students in urban areas suffer from a multitude of educational setbacks, including poor concentration and failure to complete tasks and assignments. A study in Melbourne of over 851 primary schools found that lower rates of green spaces near schools meant higher rates of air-pollution, a factor that lowered students’ overall scores in reading, math, and grammar. The same study, however, found a solution: green spaces in school locations boosts school-level academic performance.

An example of a traditional "mow and blow" public landscape.

Studies agree that the key to helping kids reap the most benefits from education is getting them outside. Research over the course of nine years involving over 25,000 Massachusetts students showed a “significant positive association” between schools in green areas and academic performance, as reported by Landscape and Urban Planning Journal. Green spaces have been found to aid attention, restoration, memory, and competence, among a host of other benefits, and were ultimately associated with higher standardized test scores, according to the Journal of Pediatric Nursing.

It may come as a surprise, though, that not all green spaces are created alike. Green spaces that exclusively feature grass lawns and shrubs work against nature and require constant care and expense to maintain. Instead, Productive Urban Landscapes (PULs) provide a solution that promotes biodiversity, creates food supply, and encourages children to interact with the world around them through the creation of community gardens.

The Fruitful Library garden at Salem-Panola Library in Stonecrest, GA in full bloom.

Now, imagine students spending class in a garden of blueberry bushes and fruit trees, watching insects pollinate local blooms and wildlife build homes in leafy branches. Not only would this kind of PUL form a biodiverse space, but it would also combat food insecurity in school communities and encourage students to learn from the world around them. This solution isn’t limited to school grounds, either; Fruitful Libraries can also serve as places of learning in nature. This is achieved by what we call the Fruitful Communities Initiative, an opportunity for you to make your community a greener place by supporting the creation of PULs at local libraries, schools, government grounds, and more!

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