According to the latest Australian and overseas research, seeing plants and experiencing nature can significantly improve the concentration and overall performance of students.

In a recent study led by Dr Kate Lee at the University of Melbourne [1], students were asked to complete a monotonous task and, midway through, they were given a 40 second break in which time they could glance outside. Half of the participants looked out to an empty concrete roof, while the other half looked out onto a lush rooftop garden. When they recommenced the task after the break, those students that spent the break viewing the green, verdant rooftop made markedly less errors and exhibited greater concentration than those students that viewed the bare concrete roof. This can be largely attributed to the therapeutic nature of plants and their ability to, in this case, restore the mental resources needed to complete the task at a higher level.

Another great study [2], this time by Margaret Burchett, John Daly and Fraser Torpy and involving plants in public school classrooms in Queensland, found that students demonstrated significant academic improvements and increases of 10-14% in classrooms with plants, when compared with students in classrooms sans plants. Having plants in the room reduced feelings of discomfort, anxiety and stress, and seemed to improve the mental awareness of students. According to research by Lohr, Pearson-Mims and Goodwin (1996) [3], students that spend time studying around plants exhibit a 12% faster reaction time to tasks, and claim to feel more attentive and have increased concentration in the presence of plants. Additionally, a US study [4] completed by Rodney Matsuoka looking at 101 public high schools around the country found consistent correlation between increases in student performance and exposure to the natural environment.

There is no denying that seeing green has many benefits, and now we know that even the smallest glance at a natural view can establish a positive micro-restorative environment that boosts student performance and concentration. It’s time to bring plants and nature into our cities and schools and let our children reap the rewards.

[1] K Lee, K Williams, L Sargent, N Williams & K Johnson (2015), ‘40-second green roof views sustain attention: The role of micro-breaks in attention restoration’ in Journal of Environmental Psychology, 42, Elsevier Australia, 2015, p. 182-189

[2] M Burchett, J Daly & F Torpy (2010), ‘Plants in the Classroom can Improve Student Performance’, Report to IPA, October 2010

[3] G Goodwin, V Lohr & C Pearson-Mims (1996), ‘Interior Plants May Improve Worker Productivity and Reduce Stress in a Windowless Environment’, Journal of Environmental Horticulture, 14, p. 97-100

[4] R Matsuoka (2010), ‘Student Performance and High School Landscapes: Examining the Links’, Landscape and Urban Planning 97, p. 273-282.