Archive for the ‘SCHOOLS’ Category


Recess is making a comeback, according to a recent article in Slate. For the first time in decades, all elementary school students attending Chicago Public Schools will have a 25-minute recess period planned into their day.  The article cites scientific research showing that children who get a 15-minute recess are more likely to pay attention in class the rest of the day.

After years without recess, many schools are not equipped to just open up the doors to the school yard and let the kids have at it. According to the Chicago Tribune, 98 elementary and middle schools in Chicago don’t have outdoor playgrounds.

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And a lot of class, at that. The Landscape Architecture Foundation has announced the recipients of its 2012 National Olmsted Scholar awards. The top honor, with $25,000 attached, goes to Jack Ohly, Student ASLA, of the University of Pennsylvania. Four finalists receive $1,000 each. Find out who they are and also learn about the full class of scholars, each nominated by his or her program faculty, here. (Disclosure: I was a member of the jury this year.) (Further disclosure: It was very uplifting to read the submissions. Frederick Law Olmsted would be pleased.)

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Wikipedia/Cassandra W

How do natural views affect student achievement? Shimon Zimbovsky, a very enthusiastic graduate student at the University of Illinois Urbana–Champaign, is working on a long-term study of 36 schools to see whether replacing the barren landscapes surrounding the schools with vegetation will have any effect on students’ performance. His work, which he presented last Thursday at the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture conference, was inspired by an earlier study by Rodney H. Matsuoka published in Landscape and Urban Planning (payment required).

Matsuoka examined 101 high schools in Michigan to see what role the presence of natural views played in students’ academic achievement and behavior. His analysis controlled for a number of factors, including socioeconomic status, race/ethnicity, building age, and school size. According to the paper, “Views with greater quantities of trees and shrubs from cafeteria as well as classroom windows are positively associated with standardized test scores, graduation rates, percentages of students planning to attend a four-year college, and fewer occurrences of criminal behavior.” The opposite was also true. Where the views lacked trees and shrubs, where cafeterias and classrooms looked out over parking lots and large expanses of lawn, Matsuoka found lower levels of academic achievement.

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