Spending time on NKM and CW can improve attention in primary aged children

The Children’s Wood collaborated with Glasgow University Psychology Department on a study looking at attention in primary school aged children. The study explored the attention span of local children after being in the Children’s Wood and North Kelvin Meadow. Attention span is an important ingredient for academic success and learning. The study found that there was a statistically signifiant impact on children’s attention after spending time in the playgroup compared to after time in the classroom. There was an even bigger effect on attention after children spent time on North Kelvin Meadow and Children’s Wood. Below is a shortened report of the study by psychology student Ieva who led the study.

Investigation of the potential impact of outdoor play on attention in primary school children

Interim Summary of the Original Report

The present research has based its idea upon the Attention Restoration Theory and its potential value in the early years classroom settings. The research was conducted by a Year 4 Honours Psychology student at the University of Glasgow (under the supervision of a member of academic staff) in partnership with the Children’s Wood based in the North Kelvin Meadow. The purpose of this interim summary is to provide information on the underpinning theory, methodology, and results of the research mentioned as well as details of discussion points developed within the original write-up.

Attention Restorative Theory (ART) has emerged from the field of Environmental Psychology and it argues that human beings have two types of attention (Kaplan, 1995); one is called ‘directed attention’ and is directed by cognitive-control processes (Berman, Jonides, & Kaplan, 2008) i.e. requires suppression of distracting stimuli and this is effortful and tiring. In everyday life it involves writing, reading, driving, etc. Directed attention, however, is not an infinite resource therefore when attention fatigue occurs individuals experience a condition often referred to as mental fatigue (Felsten, 2009). Nonetheless, this resource can be restored when indirect attention is engaged letting the direct attention rest (de Kort, Meijnders, Sponselee, & Ijsselsteijn, 2006), in other words, by engaging the other type of attention, so called ‘involuntary’ or ‘automatic’ attention. Involuntary attention occurs when we automatically attend to patterns that are difficult not to attend to e.g. fire, running water, wild animals, etc. In these cases, attention is drawn involuntarily because the stimuli are naturally fascinating. As a function of these fascinating objects/environments being so attractive people do not have to spend energy suppressing the distracting stimuli therefore allowing their directed attentional system rest and recover. Within this theory, therefore, it is argued that decreased exposure to nature and outdoor play has potentially impacted on children’s cognitive functioning and that this decline could be mediated if children could spend more time outdoors where involuntary attention is used by large (Taylor et al., 2002).

To investigate this, present research extended the previous research findings in the field by examining how natural environment during school lunch break time can support attentional functioning of primary school children. The study compared children’s attention after the usual school lunch breaks in the classroom and in the school playground to that of non-routine lunch time experiences, off the school premises, in the nearby meadow. The experimental design included three settings – a lunch break in the meadow, in the school playground, and lunch break inside the school in the classroom. Within-subject design was used where participants were tested after the exposure to each of the conditions with gender serving as a between-subject factor. The outdoor natural site was the North Kelvin Meadow and Children’s Wood, a large public green-space area and home for the Children’s Wood community initiative in Glasgow, located approximately 15 minute walk away from the school facility. Both the classroom and the playground settings were standard for a primary school in Glasgow. The participants in this study were 24 primary school pupils; 12 boys 12 girls. The average age of children was 6.6 years. Digit Backward Span (DBS) test was used to assess the changes in participants’ attentional capacities. It involved reading out loud a sequence of digits to an individual participant (e.g. 3-1-8) and asking him/her to repeat the sequence aloud in reverse order (e.g. 8-1-3). After a correct response, participants were given a new, longer sequence with series’ length increasing as the test proceeded; after an incorrect response, respondents were given a new but same length sequence to attempt. The overall score of DBS test was the number of digits in the longest sequence successfully reversed following the two consecutive failed trials (Wechsler, 1955). The procedure involved multiple researchers recording each child’s attention span using the DBS test after each of the lunch break conditions: indoors, in the wood and meadow, and in the school playground. Data collection took place between mid to late January once the children’s school routines were well established. After the test was finished, each child was then asked to answer four questions indicating whether their lunch break was – boring, relaxing, interesting and fun; all answers were recorded using likert-type scale from 1 to 3, where 1 indicated – not at all, 2 – a little, and 3 – very much. Once the questions were answered, the researchers then called the next child in the list and performed the same procedure.

The findings indicated the positive effects of the natural environment on DBS scores as can be seen in Figure 1. (Please email childrenswood@hotmail.com to access the graph as it couldn’t be uploaded!)

Expressed in terms of number of digits recalled at each occasion, the performance following exposure to the Meadow settings was higher than after the playground and the classroom conditions (Meadow – M = 3.54 SD=.736; Playground – M = 3.17, SD = .67; Classroom – M = 2.9, SD = .57).
Mixed-method ANOVA showed significant results for the difference in the DBS scores between the three conditions tested yet no gender differences were found. The lunch break in the meadow was also rated most positively.

The DBS scores for the three conditions were compared using a 3×2 mixed-design ANOVA. A statistically significant main effect was found between the types of environment participants experienced during their lunch break, where F(2,44) = 12.026, p < .001.

Expressed in terms of number of digits recalled at each occasion, the performance following exposure to the Meadow settings was higher than after the playground and the classroom conditions (Meadow – M = 3.54 SD=.736; Playground – M = 3.17, SD = .67; Classroom – M = 2.9, SD = .57).
Mixed-method ANOVA showed significant results for the difference in the DBS scores between the three conditions tested yet no gender differences were found. The lunch break in the meadow was also rated most positively.
The DBS scores for the three conditions were compared using a 3×2 mixed-design ANOVA. A statistically significant main effect was found between the types of environment participants experienced during their lunch break, where F(2,44) = 12.026, p < .001. The result tells us that, regardless of the gender of the child, exposure to the natural surrounding affected the participants’ attention span more positively than indoor or school playground surroundings. However, there was no statistically significant main effect for ‘gender’: F(2, 44) = .092, p = .764. This tells us that in general both boys and girls performed similarly across the three conditions and the predicted gender difference was not evident in this sample. Finally, there was no significant interaction between gender and the type of lunch break environment F=.513, p = .602. As a function of the condition experienced, both male and female children increased their attentional functioning equally. Finally, by large, the outdoor condition was consistently rated as more fun, interesting, relaxing and less boring lunch break setting than the other two.

To sum up, as predicted in the first hypothesis, following the lunch break in the natural outdoor setting, performances increased significantly higher than after the lunch breaks in the other two settings. The performances, however, increased significantly higher after the lunch break in the school playground as well, as compared to that of the classroom setting. One of the key findings of this study, therefore, was that even though the attentional functioning was at its highest following the time spent in nature, the playground lunch break condition increased pupils’ attentional functioning as well which takes us back to the Attention Restoration Theory as follows. The school playground settings provide the hard type of fascination like sports and other kinds of entertainment and, therefore, have an intermediate restorative potential. Natural settings, on the other hand, being a source of soft fascination or, in other words, effortless attention that does not require inhibition of distracting stimuli, have the highest restorative potential, thus the results.

Finally, there were a number of implications for practice of the present study. If, as present study suggests, nature is a viable tool for enhancing one’s ability to attend in a school environment, there may be numerous ways in which schools could administer and modulate both the access to the natural areas and the presence of natural elements within school environment itself in order to boost this effect. School curriculums should consider incorporating larger time slots dedicated for outdoor learning. Physical education and/or environment based classes of curricula could all be delivered in an outdoor environment. It does not involve any unusual risks or side effects, there is no social stigma attached to the fact that one spends a lot of time in the nature. What is more, even if, as suggested by Waters & Maynard, 2010, pre-defined learning outcomes can only be achieved through the use of certainly ordered space, the ruff and unkempt space that is most stimulating may easily sit aside providing the same benefits. Schools shall consider implementing natural settings inside the school facilities as well as in the school playgrounds. Trees, shrubs, flower beds and vegetable gardens are all elements of nature that, according to this as well as numerous other researches (Rich, 2007; Shibata & Suzuki, 2001, 2002, 2004), will not only increase pupils’ attentional functioning but will also serve an educational purpose.

To conclude, the study, therefore, suggests that preserving this type of spaces in the inner city areas and organising children to access it on a regular basis is of high importance, given the profound impact that the ability to concentrate has on one’s educational achievement. Nature therapy shall be better integrated into the health-care system, experiences of the natural environments into our classrooms, satisfaction into our lives. And, it is not a matter of going back to the free-range childhood of the previous centuries but rather a better understanding of principles of healthy child development, were a sense of connection to the world is created through the use of outdoor natural spaces.

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Children’s Wood Update

Colm and Laura

Fundraising evening with Colm Keegan in Oran Mor

 

Fundraiser

 

Colm Keegan and Laura Durrant – of world number one singing band Celtic Thunder – will play a gig in Oran Mor Glasgow to support the Children’s Wood project to get children out into nature within their community.

This is Colm’s first solo tour, off the back of his single The Dance, (number one in itunes). The gig, in Oran Mor, will premier their East Coast American show, which they leave for next week.

Celtic Thunder has a large worldwide following. They have been top in the Australia DVD charts for the last three years for different shows, and have performed for Barak Obama and in the Pentagon.

In December 2008, 2009 and 2011, Billboard magazine named Celtic Thunder Top World Album Artist. Their first three albums also placed in the Top 10 for World Albums.

The Children’s Wood project has been working to get children outside into nature over the last few years, over 100 volunteers work to make this happen in the Maryhill area of glasgow.  This event will raise funds to train local people in Forest School level 2 so that we can provide a free high quality outdoor learning for all ages of children in the community.

Play Day with Books on a Bike

Corn fields in Denmark

An example City Plan 3 objection

Exemplar return for Local Development Plan (City Plan 3)

Submit by 4pmFriday 27 June

See form for address/email

 

Access form on line@

 

Google LDP Glasgow, Click Consultation, Click Representation form.

Click Small PDF top right

Complete personal info on form

Under Section 2 click Proposed Development Plan

Under Section 3 enter under “Proposal Number” HO23

Under 4 click bit for objection

Under 5 – Write “Delete Housing Proposal HO23 land at, Sanda/Kelbourne and Clouston St and amend the Glasgow Open Spaces Map to show the land as 6.72 Natural/Semi-natural greenspace – Open semi- natural”.

 

Then copy and paste the narrative below or (change to suit).Do this by copying the bit below then place your cursor in Section 6, press control and V on your PC to insert in that section.

 

Then press email at bottom of page you will be given instruction how to proceed. As an alternative simply google for the form complete and email or print off and post to the address supplied on form.

Representation Section 6

I object to the area referred to as HO23 being designated for Housing.

1. Scottish Planning Policy under Para 153 of SPP indicates that sites such as this which are either identified or can meet an identified need in open space strategy should suffer protection in a development plan. I (we) believe the site contributes to local amenity and biodiversity and therefore qualifies for protection.

2. Under your Main Issues Report, para 2.9,p.9 (i) “the SDP proposed Plan concludes that the private housing supply across the SDP area is more than sufficient to meet demand.” In addition the CDP itself expresses a strong preference for building on brownfield sites over Greenfield sites eg CDP 2 Sustainable Spatial Strategy on page 34 – utilise brownfield over Greenfield, (ii) p53 Meeting Housing Needs again identifying brownfield opportunities and preference and (iii) Under the Glasgow and Clyde Valley SDP (2012) priority to be given to recycling of urban land by using brownfield HO23 is NOT a brownfield site

3.Brownfield sites available as identified by the City Authority – 4058,4493,2696,4176,2982,4401,4128 constituting considerable opportunity for housing if required but disregarded in breach of policy derivatives.

The redesignation of this site has not suffered appropriate consultation and in support of this the following apply:

It’s a Green Placenatural, health, happiness and well-being supports community sustainability. The numerous environmental awards won by the Children’s Wood Project which give profile to our City ‘the Dear Green Place’ appear to count for nothing

Its a Safer Community- formal and informal groups and individuals sharing information and looking out for each other connecting people of all ages and capacities

Its a place for children- children are currently under duress from obesity, diabetes, asthma, stress and other health and mental health issues. The site (the Meadow and Children’s Wood) provides them with a safe play environment in which they can benefit physically, mentally, emotionally and educationally. Some fourteen schools utilise the site providing the ‘state’ with a resource educationalists value and need. This level of use needs to be factored in to the proposal, not doing so dismisses their informed opinion.

The offices of the Children’s Commissioner for Scotland have expressed interest in visiting the site and the work of the Children’s Project.

Housing there is sufficient private housing available in the area MIR report para 2.9.p9 already referred to with attendant brownfield sites in abundance. In addition the former BBC site can now host 99 units and that in tandem with the redundant Hillhead Primary School, providing another 30plus units, not yet taken up serves notice housing is NOT required.

Recreation- Historically used for recreation, and has always been a place used by children now the land is also used for picnics, events, walking the dog, relaxing, bicycling

Inequality – This is an area of deep inequalitites, the meadow and wood are used by everyone. If this land is built on the people who will suffer will be those who are the poorest. Poor people are 9 times less likely to access greenspaces.

Biodiversity – an important well publicised necessity for the eco balance represented in City Policy finds the site a major contribution. 480 trees, raised vegetable and flower beds, an orchard, allotment, sensory garden, bumble bee habitats.

Educational-14 schools walk to the land for outdoor learning, and deliverthe Curriculum of Excellence and GCC Outside Now! Strategy. Every Monday and Friday schools come to the meadow and wood. There is an outdoor Playgroup run by local parents and a Saturday Forest School Club run by 12 local people. A sensory Garden exists for special needs schools. A study by Glasgow University found that attention in children was best after visiting the meadow/wood, compared to being in the classroom or the school playground.

The Green Network-Not a formal garden, the last large natural wild greenspace jigsawing with the Botanics, the Canal and Ruchill Park all complementing each other but all needed.

Flood protectionprevention of flooding the need to recognise the current issues in the area and the documented need to consider the future within the climate change debate now recognised as an imperative

Nature the educational and the philosophical need to recognise we all have a duty to exercise care in freeing our environment from pollution. Housing will bring undeniably greater car and vehicle presence which will inevitably increase pollutants – atmospheric – car exhaust emissions, noise – ambient especially problematic at night, visual - car lights, Smell – refuse bins – blue, green, brown and whatever.

Sustainability – the land is a sustainable resource for the community. Local people lead a growing group every Sunday and a Maintenance group every Thursday. This provides food for the community and makes sure the land is cared for. There is an orchard too. Also, local schools can deliver the curriculum without getting in a bus or using public transport, And the land meets the Good Places Better Health for Scottish Children strategy which states that green spaces should be available within easy walking distance of homes.

Conservation - the site is set within the Glasgow Conservation Area although the CDP mapping says it is but not reflected in a schedule.

Delays, no community consultation and Duty of Care, – the order of the day as it applies to the legal requirement to allow the community to formally, not just consider housing planning applications, but consultation by the Authority to consult on a re-designation of a site which has allowed current property developer interest notwithstanding the lack of evidence for such development and the existence of brownfield opportunity.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the essential representation is that there is no case for re -designating this site for private housing. There is sufficient land stock within the brownfield category to meet the City’s needs. The current usage of the site is representative of significant stakeholder investment including that of the City Authority itself as represented by the schools which participate in regular programmes. Why does that critical part of the statutory sector use the Children’s Project Services on site yet is undermined by the the Local Development Plan by this re -designation. It is a contradiction that the City should see the Site as meeting an educational and wellbeing need in that respect or, if it does not it both dismisses and undermines the professional assessment of its senior educational staff. We believe there is a moral imperative here not being addressed and the City’s position does not convey the correct legal and moral attitude to this community and in particular the City’s children.

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Tam’s Superworm send off!

Tam's Superworm send off!

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The Promise

The Promise