Interesting scientific back-up for how and why natural outdoor settings are beneficial for us humans — reducing our pent-up stress AND improving our cognitive functioning. Moreover, Attention Restoration Theory (ART) proposes that exposure to nature's greenery — even a view of trees and landscape from a school window — helps students tagged with Attention Deficit Disorder.

The theory describes two basic types of attention: directed and involuntary.

Directed attention is what we draw upon for focused concentration, screening out some external stimuli (distractions) in service to accomplishing specific (directed) tasks.

Involuntary attention is more expanded and open with awareness covering a wide spectrum. This kind of attention also has us be more responsive to our environment, perfect for long strolls in the grand diversity of nature.

Directed attention requires effort. Involuntary attention is effortless, natural, more relaxed. Thus, directed attention ultimately leads to fatigue while Involuntary attention rests our brain, restoring its capacity for further directed, focused attention.

This is more supportive documentation that students learn better (and we can add that employees work better) when given ample time in natural settings.

Here is a link for further information: a New York Times health blog article that sites Andrea Fabor Taylor's research. Exposure to nature's greenery helps those with ADHD and anyone who ever experiences brain fatigue!

For me, this is obvious common sense, but I love it when researchers go to work to prove what our natural wisdom has known all along. Nature is good for us! But perhaps the theory helps relieve any guilt for taking time out to leisurely watch shifting cloud formations in the wide open sky as we amble up a meandering wooded path — while pressing work in need of accomplishment lies in wait on our desk. We'll get to it later when we are more rested, refreshed, and restored.

Now I need to get outdoors and restore my brain after this hyper focused discussion-posting. :-)

Tags: ADHD, Attention-restoration-theory, nature-and-learning

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Hi Anna! I came across some of the same information (somewhere!), that even images of trees and other natural surroundings helps us to calm and focus. It reminded me of an intensive training I had when I first started teaching- 2 solid weeks of all-day training in brain-based learning, as interpreted by Susan Kovalik. She put a lot of emphasis on the physical appearance of the classroom, especially the use of color- predominately blues and greens, please! There were many other details, and I remember uproarious laughter at the suggestion that I put doilies on my tables (I guess you'd have to know me to get how funny that is... I am messy, just as likely a doily would be used as a wash cloth in my house), but ha ha on all of them, I did put soothing blue cloths over a few surfaces, as well as sweet little blue xmas lights tucked into the border of my bulletin boards, healthy, happy plants filling the side of the room with windows... many pretty, non-fussy, natural touches, and the ambiance was lovely. We all enjoyed being in that room. I've taken that lesson with me wherever else I've gone. Creating a soothing environment where one can relax and think is the first thing I do in a new classroom, and the first thing I look to rejuvenate after any break.

The other little idiosyncrasy is that I have to have one very messy corner, or spot, for my own. Students are welcome to come into that spot, but you have to tread lightly there (literally, there are piles on the floor!)
This is great, Ellen. I love the idea of the little blue lights. Makes me think of the blue lights lining airport runways at night. Soothing and focusing. Yes you're right, the Attention Restoration Theory also says that even pictures of trees, greenery, and other natural surroundings rest and restore our brain power. Your creative room design sounds wonderful. I want to be in your classroom — happy plants, little blue lights, and an intriguing messy corner with fascinating piles. :-)

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