More and more schools are running environmental school projects to teach pupils about nature. They may be specific events like the “Schools Gardening Week” (1) or “Landscape architects and designers in our classes” (2) and range from the creation of green spaces to school vegetable gardens (as in Aspet, France) (3) or plants in the classrooms. There are a host of possibilities, with benefits for everyone: schools, students and landscaping industry!
Wellbeing grows in green schools
Like music, plants charm savage beasts! Contact with nature calms minds and significantly reduces feelings of anger, hostility and anxiety. In a context where pupils can be rowdy and even violent, plants make the climate more serene for all. Did you know for example that the proximity of a green space reduces violent acts by 25%? (4)
Plants in schools help pupils concentrate and improve their memories. In vegetalized classrooms, pupils’ performances in mathematics, sciences and spelling improve by 10 to 15% (5). The reasons are that plants filter the CO2 in the air efficiently as well as ambient noise, improving their ability to concentrate.
These elements create a school environment favorable for wellbeing, allowing pupils to grow up in optimal conditions and teachers to focus on teaching.
A 3 year study conducted by Colorado University monitored an elementary school in Baltimore equipped with a green space and observed the following:
- 96% of pupils decided to play in the school garden.
- Younger pupils explored this natural environment through sensory activities. Older pupils quite naturally worked together to build huts and exchange treasures they found .
- Teachers noted that pupils’ concentration improved.
- 25% of pupils spontaneously described their classroom environment as “peaceful”.
- No violent behavior was noted during 700 hours of observations.
Take care when creating an environmental school project as some pupils may be allergic to some plants:
Ecological schools are educational!
The benefits of plants and gardens in schools are not limited to wellbeing. They also encourage learning when creating green spaces and transform plants into teaching tools.
In this way schools can add extra-curricular activities such as teaching workshops run by landscaping professionals and gardening activities in collective green spaces. These environmental school projects, from infancy, help pupils understand their environment better — a “must” in developing their eco-citizenship.
Being able to study botany at school also creates future vocations, opening new job horizons. The landscaping industry is becoming increasingly important as society becomes aware of environmental challenges and employment in this sector tends to develop.
Lastly, being in contact with nature helps pupils understand life in society when they deal with the school garden or the plants in their classroom. Quite naturally they will work as a team, define roles and choose the plants they want to have. This inculcates the principle of responsibility and builds confidence in their abilities.
Collateral effects of the introduction of plants into schools
Environmental school project centered on plants have interesting indirect impacts.
It is a new business for landscaping industry. Landscaping professionals widen their sphere of activity to the environmental school projects and suppliers of green spaces develop solutions for designing green spaces adapted to young people. The fact that children discover new vocations also ensures the renewal of landscaping industry. And last but not least, children gain greater understanding of the importance of these trades — after all, you only value what you know!
For the schools, environmental projects have many benefits including enhancement of schools' notoriety, achievement of teaching goals in terms of the environment and improvement of their pupils’ results.
Bringing plants into schools is not only possible but beneficial for everyone, provided that this approach is part of an educational plan and is developed in close collaboration with landscaping professionals as they have the necessary know-how.
(1) Val'hor: Semaine du jardinage dans les écoles
(2) C.A.U.E: Architectes et paysagistes dans les classes
(3) La Dépêche: Un potager jardin créé à l'école
(4) University of Washington: Crime & Public Safety
(5) PHS Greenleaf: The benefits of plants in schools and educational facilities
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