On my bus ride home recently, I thought to myself “I wonder if it’s been proven that plants in the classroom would increase student engagement?” I had no idea if this had been researched, let alone proven, I just figured it would be something cool to research. A few clicks later on my phone, I was shocked to find that yes, it’s been researched, and yes, it is proven that plants in the classroom increase student wellbeing and test scores. Over a two month period, a group of UTS (University of Technology Sydney) researchers investigated the results of placing plants in Year 6 and 7 classrooms in independent schools in Brisbane. Half the classrooms received 3 plants each, while the other half of the classrooms received none. Students were given a standard test before the plant placements and were tested again after the 6 week period. The students were tested in spelling, maths, science and reading. The results captured below in the graphs are quite incredible : So why the increase in success? Well, it’s not just in schools: in a different study, UTS proved that plant presence is linked to improved performance and productivity in office workers, with a 60% reduction in stress, anxiety and low-spirits. The study asserts that nearby greenery ‘resets the calm button.’ So it appears that not only adults, but students too, benefit from a connection with our natural environment. Plants also increase the air quality in a classroom, and teachers reported that having open doors and windows was a great way to combat VOC’s (‘volatile organic compounds’) that come from plastic/synthetic surfaces such as printers, furnishings, computers etc. The study also showed that closed classrooms can cause a loss of concentration and an increase drowsiness.
By reading this study I was also introduced to the term ‘biophilia’ – a hypothesis that suggests there is an instinctive bond between human beings and other living systems. Therefore, how can we increase the connection between our students and the natural world? Many schools run successful gardening programs, have farms or grow vegetables to sell. These types of programs can promote the idea of ‘nurturing’, ‘fostering’ and ‘caring’ for plants and small animals. I am thrilled by these findings and will be looking for ways to get green in my classroom! To read the full report, click here.