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How school grounds maintenance can improve attention spans

It is easy to think of school grounds maintenance as a purely practical task – regular hedge trimming keeps pavements accessible for instance, while occasional tree felling can remove old trees that have become a health hazard.

But research suggests it may be wise to think of school grounds maintenance as more of a landscape gardening discipline, as a tarmac playground is not necessarily the most conducive environment to learning.

A study from the University of Colorado at Boulder found that children’s attention spans improve when they are allowed to play in a yard with more natural terrain, while their stress levels also drop.

Even providing play equipment may not be as useful as providing a green space with bushes and trees, the researchers found.

Louise Chawla, CU-Boulder professor of environmental design, says: “Many schools already offer stress management programs, but they’re about teaching individuals how to deal with stress instead of creating stress-reducing environments.”

She adds that water features, small species of trees and shrubs, and even simply the presence of dirt can all be beneficial.

And with pupils spending many hours each week at school, well-maintained grounds are also a means by which to provide them with direct access to a more natural environment.