This article is written with the help of two research papers, to find the effect of green cover and green spaces concerning children’s attention and cognitive development.
The first study aimed to assess the association between indicators of exposure to green space and measures of cognitive development, including working memory (the system that holds multiple pieces of transitory information in the mind where they can be manipulated), superior working memory (working memory that involves continuous updating of the working memory buffer), and inattentiveness in primary school children. As the secondary aim, it also evaluated the mediating role of reduction in air pollution as one of the potential mechanisms underlying this association
The computerized n-back test was used for assessing working memory and computerized attentional network test (ANT) was used for evaluating attention. As the sample for the study, 2,593 school children in the second to fourth grades (7–10 y) of 36 primary schools in Barcelona, Spain (2012–2013) were taken. Cognitive development was assessed as a 12-month change in the developmental trajectory of working memory, superior working memory, and inattentiveness by using computerized cognitive tests for each outcome. All schoolchildren (n = 4,562) without special needs in the second to fourth grades (7–10 y) were involved.
These 36 schools were also selected to obtain maximum contrast in Traffic-Related Air Pollution (TRAP) levels (i.e., Nitrogen dioxide: NO2). To assess exposure to green space the study characterized outdoor surrounding greenness at home and school and during commuting by using high-resolution (5 m × 5 m) satellite data on greenness (normalized difference vegetation index).
The second study emphasized on the relationship between the presence of plants in urban areas and stress reduction. In this study, they compared the effects on primary school children’s capacity for the attention in a garden dominated by green vegetation with those of a classroom lacking natural elements.
A sample of eighty pupils, between 8 and 10 years of age of similar education and intellectual faculties, were chosen to solve the “Trail making test” (TMT). The research was conducted at the primary school “Andrea del Sarto” in Florence housed in an ancient building in the area of the urban park of “San Salvi” (about 10 ha area) and surrounded by a large garden planted with trees where children can meet and play. TMT is a standardized test to measure general mental ability.
Part A evaluates the process of rote memory. Part B is associated with distinguishing between numbers and letters, integration of two independent series, ability to learn an organizing principle and apply it systematically, serial retention and integration, and verbal problem-solving.
Children were divided into two groups (40 each): one composed of fourth-year students (ten-year-old pupils) this group did both Part A and B; the other of second-year students (eight-year-olds) only did part A. Results of this study show significant correlations between the time needed to solve the test and the place where the test was taken.
The results confirm that even brief exposure to the natural environment may have some beneficial effects on children’s capacity to direct. Green schoolyards, enhancing the children’s attentional capacity, could play a central role in the improvement of pupils’ academic performance. Access to vegetation and natural areas can help in the attenuation of adverse effects of stressors often encountered by children. Findings showed that garden exposure significantly improved the attention of primary school children engaged in the simple task of taking an easy test. Results showed that garden exposure significantly improved children’s attention.
Thus, through all this, we can see that the natural environment is essential for the good physical and psychological well-being of an individual as it decreases inattentiveness and increases memory. It has even added health benefits such as improving the immune system and reducing stress as it has a calming effect on individuals. It also absorbs noise and air pollution keeping the environment cleaner and safer to live in
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