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Green spaces raise cognitive ability and performance for children, study finds
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Green space at schools can contribute to boosting children's cognitive ability and memory, which raises performance in school, a recent study has found. - photo by Mandy Morgan
More green space may be exactly what schools need, and not just for pent up kids to burn off energy. Cognitive ability and memory can be boosted for some children, when it comes to surrounding greenery.

A study, published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found an association between outdoor greenness children were exposed to at home, school and during commuting and their cognitive development.

"Natural environments including green spaces provide children with unique opportunities such as inciting engagement, risk taking, discovery, creativity, mastery and control, strengthening sense of self, inspiring basic emotional states including sense of wonder and enhancing psychological restoration," the researchers wrote.

Over a year, the researchers looked at the improvement or changes in working memory and inattentiveness with schoolchildren between the ages of 7 and 10, by using computerized cognitive tests and satellite data for the green spaces, according to the study abstract.

It was found from the nearly 2,600 children from Barcelona, Spain, involved in the study that "those exposed to more greenness near their school saw a 5 percent increase in working memory a measure of short-term memory and a one percent reduction in inattentiveness," wrote the Washington Post.

According to a report on the study in Time magazine, researchers also found that when there is more green space at a school there is an increase of physical activity and reduction of pollution and noise.

"Overall, a significant increase in green space at school could end the impairment of nearly 9 percent of students with impaired working memory," the researchers found, according to Time.

Another study published last October on PLOS was based on similar research at elementary schools in Massachusetts and "the results showed a consistently positive association between the greenness of the schools in the spring and school-wide performance on both English and math tests, even after adjustment for socio-economic factors and urban residency," the researchers wrote.

Time spent outside is an invaluable part of growing up said Dr. Eva Selhub, a physician and resiliency coach, according to a story in the Deseret News National edition.

"Unstructured free play, in which kids drive the activity, is essential for growing bodies and minds. That's where they learn to be little scientists and creative thinkers," Selhub said.