Together the researchers logged more than 1,200 hours of observation. They interviewed students, teachers, parents and alumni and coded keywords from the interviews for their findings, among other methods.
Over three school years at the Baltimore elementary school recess site, 96 percent of students in the first through fourth grades chose to play in the woods when they had the option of heading either there, to a playground or to an athletic field. In the woods, the younger children freely engaged in exploratory and sensory-based activities. The older children cooperatively organized activities like building forts and trading found objects.
Teachers at the Baltimore elementary school reported that the students returned from recess with longer attention spans. Some parents said the experience was empowering and critical to their child's well-being and social and emotional balance.
Students at the Denver elementary school, who completed assignments in a natural habitat, found the process to be an escape from stress in the classroom and at home, according to the study. Twenty-five percent of the students spontaneously described the green area as "peaceful" or "calm."
There also were anecdotal observations at the Denver school. In one case for example, a group of menacing schoolmates were unable to provoke a student in the green space whose temper normally was quick to escalate, according to the author.
"In more than 700 hours of observations at the Denver school's green outdoor space, zero uncivil behavio
|Contact: Louise Chawla|
University of Colorado at Boulder