Green breaks: The restorative effect of the school environment's green areas on children's cognitive performance

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  • Giulia Amicone
  • Irene Petruccelli
  • De Dominicis, Stefano
  • Alessandra Gherardini
  • Valentina Costantino
  • Paola Perucchini
  • Marino Bonaiuto

Restoration involves individuals' physical, psychological, and social resources, which have diminished over the years in the process of meeting the demands of everyday life. Psychological restoration can be provided by specific environments, in particular by natural environments. Studies report a restorative effect of nature on human beings, specifically in terms of the psychological recovery from attention fatigue and restored mental resources that were previously spent in activities that require attention. Two field studies in two Italian primary schools tested the hypothesized positive effect of recess time spent in a natural (vs. built) environment on pupils' cognitive performance and their perceived restorativeness, using standardized tests. In Study 1, children's psychological restoration was assessed by measuring sustained and selective attention, working memory, and impulse control, before and after the morning recess time. Team standardized playtime was conducted in a natural (vs. built) environment, and the perceived restorativeness was measured after each recess time. Results showed a greater increase in sustained and selective attention, concentration, and perceived restorativeness from pretest to posttest after the natural environment condition. In Study 2, the positive effect of free play recess time in a natural (vs. built) environment was assessed during the afternoon school time on sustained and selective attention and perceived restorativeness. Results showed an increase in sustained and selective attention after the natural environment condition (vs. built) and a decrease after the built environment break. Higher scores in perceived restorativeness were registered after the natural (vs. built) environment condition. Team standardized playtime and individual free play recess in a natural environment (vs. built) support pupils' attention restoration during both morning and afternoon school times, as well as their perceived restorativeness of the recess environment. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed in terms of nature's role both for the school ground design or redesign and for the organization of the school's activities.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1579
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2018

    Research areas

  • Attention, Children, Green areas, Nature, Restoration, School

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