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`Linking student performance in Massachusetts elementary schools with the "greenness" of school surroundings using remote sensing' by Wu, C, McNeely, E, Cedeo-Laurent, J G et al

Plos One, October 2014


As this study points out, past research has shown that exposure to "greener" surroundings offers a range of physical and mental health benefits.

However, the study breaks new ground in examining the potential of a direct link between a green environment and academic performance. The research examines the results of 3rd-grade students (aged 8-9) at 905 public elementary schools in Massachusetts between 2006 and 2012. The test data was taken from the standardised Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, or MCAS.

The greenness of the area surrounding the schools was analysed using Nasa satellite images from different times of the year, and academics cross-referenced students' performances with the greenness of each school.

To ensure the accuracy of the results, researchers took into account socio-economic factors that could affect performance, such as race, gender and parent income. Even after making adjustments for these factors, however, there was a strong association between the academic achievement of a school and the greenness of the surrounding area during exam time.

What's more, students who had more exposure to greenness throughout the year also performed better, with most estimates showing "statistically significant results". Although the study's authors accept that this theory might not hold true everywhere, it seems that one possible way to increase pupils' performance could simply be to plant a few trees.

Alex Tyndall

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