This Could Be the Secret Ingredient to Improving School Performance

And it doesn't involve more studying.

classroom-window
Photo by Ryuhei Shindo/Getty Images

Spending time outdoors has been linked to a wide variety of benefits, from boosting creativity to making workouts more enjoyable. But new research shows simply having a view of greenery could be advantageous, too—particularly for students.

According to a study conducted by the University of Illinois, students who worked in classrooms with a view of a green landscape performed better on tests and recovered better from stress. The results of the study will be published in Landscape and Urban Planning.

Ninety-four students at five Illinois high schools participated in the study, in which they were randomly assigned to one of three types of classrooms. One room was windowless, another featured a window looking out onto another building or parking lot, and the third featured a window looking out onto green space. The classrooms were similar in other regards, such as size, layout, and furniture.

To determine whether the view of greenery had an effect on the students’ performance, the participants spent 30 minutes proofreading, giving a speech, and doing mental math exercises. They were then given two attention tests, which were broken up with a 10-minute break in the classroom. The students wore sensors to determine their stress levels, and rated their mental fatigue using a questionnaire.

While there was no statistical difference in performance for the students who took the tests in the classrooms without the view of greenery, the students with the view showed a 13 percent increase in performance following the break. Additionally, the students with the landscape view showed a greater recovery from stress after the break.

"It's a significant finding, that if you have a green view outside your window, you'll do better on tests," Dongying Li, one of the study’s researchers, said in a statement.

The researchers hypothesize that Attention Restoration Theory is at play, which is the idea that focusing on a task causes mental exhaustion, and that your attention is involuntarily drawn to certain things when you take a break. When the students in the room with a view of green landscape took a break, their attention was drawn outside, which helped restore their mental energy. Previous studies have also shown that views of nature can aid in stress recovery and improve mood.

Looking for other ways to reduce your child's stress? Try these calming techniques from mind-body experts.