Adolescents investigate the restorative effects of school areas (indoor/outdoor) and urban green spaces

Everyday school life challenges pupils’ well-being as well as their cognitive skills. They are less able to concentrate, can not sufficiently absorb the subject matters and are not balanced. The need to restore during school lessons is crucial, but what are the places in the school and living environments, where pupils can restore cognitive performance? The project Green4Brain investigates and compares restorative effects of different places in the school and living environments of adolescents. Two Viennese schools work together with researchers from recreation planning, environmental health and environmental engineering. Green4Brain follows also a transdisciplinary approach; the involved school students act on three levels: as researchers, as study group and as affected actors.

The project starts with the recording of everyday life of the involved pupils: In a first step, they will survey their own recreational places within the school and the living environment during different seasons with videoclips. Afterwards, they analyse and reflect their own recreation behaviour and experiences with these places using concept maps. In a second step, the restorative effects of several places on the wellbeing and the concentrativeness of pupils are measured in a standardised way. Different non-invasive psychological (e.g. subjective assessment of well-being), physical (blood pressure, pulse measurements) and cognitive (concentration test) methods will be used. The measurements are planned in the school environment (e.g. classroom with/without plants, school yard) and in a public green space in different seasons (summer/winter). A quantitative survey based on an image-based choice model will analyse how public green spaces should be designed to attract people also in the vegetation-free season. Finally, adolescents reflect and synthesise the results of different work packages and develop strategies to improve the restorative quality of their school environment in a future lab.

Following the transdisciplinary approach, the school students are involved in all work packages. In workshops, they learn about different methods and instruments of recreation planning, environmental psychology, medicine and engineering and can use these methods directly within the project. The collaboration between research team and schools includes single school lessons, workshops lasting several hours or whole project days. Especially interested pupils have the opportunity to take part in an internship at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, to learn more about research and a researchers’ workday.