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Can Trees improve students’ academic performance?

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Posted October 14, 2014

Can Trees improve students’ academic performance? New study carried out by American biologists suggests that it can. They discovered that students who live in greener environments achieve better scores in Math and English tests. This grades-increasing effect persists even after controlling for such factors as gender or socio-economic status.

Picture: Green Neighbourhood. Image credit: North Charleston via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0.

Picture: Green Neighbourhood. Image credit: North Charleston via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0.

Many prior studies have explored what factors influence children’s achievements at school. Gender and family background were identified as important influences. “No research, however, has examined the specific effects of green surroundings on academic performance,” the scientists say.

Team of researchers led by Chih-Da Wu at Harvard School of Public Health explored this question. They analyzed test results of 3rd graders from 905 public schools in Boston, Massachusetts. Unfortunately, student’s personal addresses were unavailable. Nonetheless, modern technologies allowed scholars to find a neat solution.

“Surrounding greenness of each school was measured using satellite images converted into the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index in March, July and October of each year according to a 250-meter, 500-meter, 1,000-meter, and 2000-meter circular buffer around each school,” they explain.

Statistical analysis clearly demonstrates that schools located in greener areas contribute to higher grades perform better. Noteworthy, this effect was revealed for the first time. “Interestingly, the results showed a consistently positive significant association between the greenness of the school in the Spring (when most Massachusetts students take the tests) and school-wide performance on both English and Math tests, even after adjustment for socio-economic factors and urban residency,” biologists add.

However, authors of the article acknowledge that their research had some limitations which should be solved by future studies. Unfortunately, they were not able to get individual data. Aggregate information was used instead. In addition, picture made by satellite can’t account for indoor greenness. Finally, it is possible that data from Boston do not represent whole U.S. population.

“We suggest that future studies could duplicate the same analyses in different countries with various grades of students to further assess the effects of geographical differences and education systems on the benefits of green spaces. Moreover, we also recommend a cohort study design once the individual exposure data and performance records become available,” the researchers say.

Article: Wu C-D, McNeely E, Ceden˜ o-Laurent JG, Pan W-C, Adamkiewicz G, et al. (2014) Linking Student Performance in Massachusetts Elementary Schools with the ‘‘Greenness’’ of School Surroundings Using Remote Sensing. PLoS ONE 9(10): e108548. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0108548, source link.

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