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Jenny Roe - Natural Solutions to Tackling Behavior & Performance in Urban Schools


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The talk highlights the benefits of green space access in school settings for behavioral and performance outcomes. It presents two studies both carried out in deprived schools in Central Scotland; the first compares the effect of indoor versus outdoor education (delivered in a forest setting) on a range of wellbeing outcomes in teenagers; the second study explores the benefits to memory recall in early years pupils from curriculum tasks carried out indoors versus outdoors in a range of playground settings.

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Jenny Roe - Natural Solutions to Tackling Behavior & Performance in Urban Schools

  1. 1. Natural Solutions To Tackling Behavior and Performance in Urban Schools Curry Education Research Leadership Series 2nd September 2016 Jenny Roe, PhD Director of the Center for Design and Health
  2. 2. Outline • The theoretical context; • The evidence base for effects of nature in school settings; • 3 studies exploring outdoor classrooms and effects of natural settings: o Primary school children, mainstream school o Adolescents aged 11-13: (i) mainstream school (ii) specialist school
  3. 3. Key theoretical concepts Restorative environments offering: - short term restoration from cognitive fatigue, stress and poor mood; - longer-term restoration called ‘instoration’
  4. 4. Nature nurtures us (Kaplan and Kaplan 1989) © National Geographic January 2016 Directed Attention: urban environments demand our attention dramatically – once it’s depleted we become cognitively fatigued, less effective and stressed. Involuntary Attention: the ‘soft’ stimuli of nature – trees, water, light patterns – allows the brain to disengage – and restore its capacity for directed attention.
  5. 5. • Better health is related to access to green space regardless of socioeconomic status and income; • Some limited evidence showing that interventions using the natural environment to improve health can deliver costs savings for health and related services. Natural solutions to health Natural Solutions for Tackling Healthy Inequalities, Allen and Balfour 2014
  6. 6. Natural solutions to health in children & teens Short-term restorative effects Attention restoration (Faber Taylor et al 2002, Kuo 2001, Wells 2000) Affective restoration (Faber Taylor and Kuo 2008) Stress reduction (Wells and Evans 2003) Instorative effects over time: Roe and Aspinall 2011(a) Specific psychiatric conditions Reduction in ADHD symptoms (Faber Taylor et al 2001, Kuo and Faber Taylor 2004, Faber Taylor and Kuo 2008) Reduced symptom severity in children with autism (Natural England 2014) Evidence of differential capacities for restoration: the intensity of a restorative experience can be influenced by mental health state in response to different settings (Roe and Aspinall 2011b, 2011c). Roe (in press) Cities, Green Space, and Mental Wellbeing, Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Environmental Science
  7. 7. Natural Solutions and School Performance • Greater levels of social interaction and greater non-verbal communication outdoors in young children (Waite et al., 2012). • Improved memory recall in 13-15 year olds (n=85), better recall of biology tasks outdoors vs. indoor classroom activities, 5 months post experiment, plus evidence of better social interaction and affective impact (Fägerstam & Blom 2012) • Evidence of greater creativity in children’s activities in natural settings (Waite and Davis 2007)
  8. 8. Spectrum of mental health in children & teenagers Buchanan et al., 2004 Some behavior problem Significant behavior problem: ‘poor mental health’ Severe mental disorder No behavior problem: ‘good mental health’
  9. 9. Study 1 Primary School Memory Recall: Indoor Task vs Outdoor Task McKenzie Hamilton, J (2016): Environment and Cognition in Primary Schoolchildren (unpublished PhD Research) Jenny Roe, Pete Higgins, Peter Aspinall and Caroline Brown
  10. 10. • RH1. The cognitive performance of primary schoolchildren on a curriculum task will be better in a natural setting than a classroom. • Design: quasi-experimental, 3 Scottish primary schools (n=57), mean age 5 ½ years, repeat measures performed the same curriculum task indoors vs natural setting, children matched on SES variables. • Main outcome variable: cognitive performance as measured by memory recall, 6 months post task. Open ended recall question “tell me one thing you remember about the lesson?”, and then requesting further recollections using the simple open-ended prompt, “anything more / else?” • Mixed Methods: child task recollections, teacher interviews, observation, child and teacher survey on setting preferences and setting richness. RQ & Methods
  11. 11. Total m f UnderA Setting 1 Setting 2 Setting 1 Setting 2 Group 1 13 7 6 3 Indoors Wild Indoors Indoors Group 2 16 8 8 4 Indoors Indoors Wild Indoors Totals: 29 15 14 *7 *Underachievers: All male, except one girl in Group 1 KEY: Children (Av Age 5yrs) Task1: Make aToy Task2: Puppet Tour Experimental Control Research design: example
  12. 12. Make a Toy: Comparison of Indoor and Outdoor Toys
  13. 13. Survey Measures
  14. 14. • Outdoor tasks were recalled more readily and in richer detail than the classroom, with stronger recall in the wilder setting over the playground. • Children – and teachers – preferred the outdoor tasks. • Underachievers recalled more outdoors than their peers. • Observational data showed great movement, social interaction and creative diversity outdoors. Main findings
  15. 15. Recollections 6 months post task 25.8% 74.2% Locationof1st Recollection Children(n= 31) indoors outdoors The first recollection was most often the outdoor task
  16. 16. Boxplot of Underachievers vs Able Children, significantly different outcomes in the wilder outdoors setting only Recollections between groups
  17. 17. Study 2 Secondary school: restorative outcomes of forest vs indoors settings in young people with varying behaviour states. Roe, J. and Aspinall, P A. (2011b), Urban Forestry and Urban Greening, issue 3, Volume 10.
  18. 18. Deprived, inner city school in Glasgow, n=18, aged 11 Mainstream school Urban forest school
  19. 19. Study Design: two behavior groups: good vs poor behavior Context: School day vs Forest School day x 2 Outcome measures: -Mood: stress, anger, hedonic tone and energy (UWIST MACL 1990); -Dimensions of personal goals (manageability, mastery, meaning, fun and stress). Methods
  20. 20. Anger Outcomes -4 -3 -2 -1 0 1 2 3 4 5 School Forest1 Forest2 estimatedmarginalmean setting Between group differences for anger good behaviour poor behaviour * * *significant difference between group A higher value on the y axis = higher anger level
  21. 21. Hedonic Tone Outcomes -4 -3 -2 -1 0 1 2 3 4 5 School Forest 1 Forest 2 Estimatedmarginalmeans setting Between group diffrences for hedonic tone good behaviour poor behaviour A higher value on the y axis = higher HT
  22. 22. Participatory Video Video Diary Box
  23. 23. Study 3 Residential School: outcomes of forest school in children with severe mental health problems Roe, J. and Aspinall, P A (2011c): The emotional affordances of forest settings: an investigation in boys with extreme behavioural problems, Landscape Research. 22 March 2011 (iFirst), 36 (5).
  24. 24. Residential school, Glasgow
  25. 25. Participatory Video
  26. 26. Affective Outcomes, n=8
  27. 27. 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Pre Post Mean Stress Good Poor Extreme Differing rates of restoration across the behavior spectrum in the outdoor setting
  28. 28. Blue light exposure across the life span Amanda Nioi, PhD Jenny Roe, Peter Aspinall, Bal Dhillon, David McNair Blue light exposure across the life span Proposition study: autism and blue light exposure
  29. 29. The non-visual eye Body clock: SCN Melatonin – the sleep hormone, suppressed by blue light Non-image forming cells at the back of the eye send signals to the brain synchronizing environmental cues and the body clock Czeisler et al., 1995: Suppression of melatonin secretion in some blind patients by exposure to bright light Pineal gland
  30. 30. Key findings • Sensitivity to fluorescent light – can cause over arousal in behavior. • Disruption in the melatonin rhythms – sleep/wake cycle can become out of sync. Gaps for further study • Quantify amount of blue light reaching the eye and the level of sleep disruption. • Limited research on light therapy as a non-pharmaceutical to synchronize circadian rhythms. • Simple light intervention measuring the effects of sleep. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) installation-harmonic.html
  31. 31. Adolescents Key findings • Lack of blue light in the am or over exposure in the pm causes disruption to sleep cycles. • Blue light in the morning proven to help daytime alertness during the school day. Gaps for further study • Exploration of the connection between morning blue light exposure and academic performance. • Examine the longer term implications on sleep and well-being due to over exposure to evening blue light.
  32. 32. • Increasing reliance on prescriptions (Ritalin, Adderall) being used to manage behavior • “We’ve decided as a society it’s too expensive to modify the kid’s environment. So we have to modify the kid” Clinician quoted in ADHD Nation, Alan Schwarz 2016 Natural solutions … why is this important ?
  33. 33. Next steps … • Exploring the convergence of environment, education and health and wellbeing. • Establish a ‘natural connections’ school demonstration project.
  34. 34. Appendices Name FSM* Teachers School Yr Sample Av Age m f UA** Settings Tasks 1. Playground 14% n=1 P1 n=19 5yrs 10 9 6 Classroom / Playground (1) Autumn Leaves***; (2) Build aDen 2. Urban Wood 72% n=1 P1 n=29 5yrs 15 14 7 Classroom / Wood (1) Make aToy; (2) Puppet Tour P1/ 2 n=9 5.5yrs 4 5 0 P5/ 6 n=14 9.5yrs 6 8 1 ***Pilot Study*FSM: Free School Meals **UA: Underachievers SCHOOLS CHILDREN TASK 3. Rural Wood 14% n=2 Classroom / Wood (1) Alien Adventure