Restorative Environments 4: Focus on Children and Social Context

A.E. van den Berg; J.E. Wesselius; S. Collado; C. Konings. Location: A12

Symposium: Restorative Environments: Focus on Children and Social Context 

Organisers: H. Staats & T. Hartig

In restorative environment research children have not been studied as often as young adolescents and adults. We argue that the same goes for the social context of restoration. In this symposium we have 4 contributions that focus on one or the other, or both. Agnes van den Berg and Bert van Duin study an innovation in classroom design, green walls, and their potential to reduce stress, and increase attentional capacity and well-being. Janke Wesselius and colleagues present first results of children whose school playgrounds have been greened or not. A longitudinal design will eventually produce much needed long term results, after two years of use of the  different playgrounds. Silvia Collado and colleagues studied children in agricultural areas. Restorative benefis appear to depend on the interplay of type of  relationship with the environment, feelings of security, and being alone or with a close friend. Encounters with unknown persons in nature are studied by Konings and Staats. Using an interactive choice paradigm, in which participants are free to choose an encounter with a stranger or avoid it, and then continue their simulated walk, choices and consecutive feelings and cognitions are studied as derived from attention restoration theory and Wohlwill’s theorizing about effects of nature.

Living walls for a restorative classroom environment

A.E. van den Berg & B. van Duijn

Living walls, also known as green walls, vertical planting systems, vertical gardens, or plant walls provide an innovative solution for creating healthy, restorative interiors. In the present research, we evaluated the impacts of living walls in classrooms of two elementary schools on children’s attention and wellbeing, using a pre/post/follow-up design with two experimental groups and two control groups in each school. Approximately 200 schoolchildren (age 7-10) completed self-report questionnaires on their emotional, social and physical well-being at baseline, and at two and four months after the placement of the living walls. At each time of measurement, two tests of attention (Digit Letter Substitution task and Sky search task from the TEA-Ch ) were collectively administered. Air quality in the classrooms was continuously monitored during the research period. Preliminary results of the first post measurement indicate that the children generally like the living wall (72% like it a little or very much, 2% do not like it, 26% are indifferent) and on average grade it 8.3 on a scale of 1-10. More detailed results on changes in well-being, attention and air quality will be presented at the conference, along with suggestions for future research and recommendations for practical implementation.

Greening playgrounds: method and first results of a prospective intervention study

J.E. Wesselius, J. Maas, D. Hovinga, & A.E. van den Berg

In a prospective intervention study with a two years follow-up we investigate how children can benefit in their health and development from playing and learning on a green playground. Ten schools with approximately 800 children (age 7-9) take part in the project. At pre-measurement in spring 2014 nine playgrounds were paved, one playground was green. Five more playgrounds are scheduled to be greened between pre-measurement and first follow-up in spring 2015. Data collection covers a broad set of objective and self-reported measurements. At the playground, play behavior and physical activity is measured with video observations and accelerometers. In the classroom,  cognitive tasks and questionnaires are used to assess children’s perceptions and restorative quality of the playground, (pro)social behavior, creativity, well-being, school functioning and connectedness to nature. Preliminary results of the pre-measurement show that there is room for improvement of the playgrounds. The green playground is more positively evaluated and considered to be more restorative and natural  than the paved playgrounds. These results lead us to hypothesize that greening of the playgrounds will have positive effects on children’s perceptions and well-being, as indicated by the data of the first follow-up in 2015 (which will be part of the presentation).

The role of type of daily interaction with nature on children’s perceived restorativeness

Collado, S., Staats, H.,  Sorrel, M., & Corraliza, J. A.

The relationship between spending time in nature and obtaining restorative benefits seems to vary with different factors. This study assessed the role of one such factor, type of interaction with nearby nature, on children’s perceived restorativeness. We hypothesized that children who help their families in the agricultural business (work-related to nature) perceive agricultural areas as less restorative than those who only spend their free time there (non work-related). 183 work-related and 179 non-work related to nature children rated their nearby natural environment in terms of perceived restorativeness, familiarity, and perceived security. They also reported their need of social support (preference for being alone or with a close one) while in the natural environment. A series of multiple mediator models were conducted with Mplus. Our results show that having a work relationship with nature diminished children’s perceived restorativeness. This relationship was mediated by perceived security, need of social support and familiarity. Being work related to nature decreased children’s perceived restorativeness through familiarity, but increased it through a lower need of social support and a higher sense of security. Out of the four restorative qualities, being away (physically & psychologically) seems to be the most affected by children’s work relation to nature.

Choosing to face or avoid an encounter: a study on the effects of social presence on path choices during a walk in a natural environment

C. Konings & H. Staats

We examined the effects of social presence on path choice during a walk in a safe natural environment. Using computerized sequences of photographic images representing a walk through a forest an encounter was visualized with a person coming towards or walking the same direction as the participant. Participants (N=75) were given the choice to encounter or avoid the person by choosing one or the other branch of the path and then continue the walk.. Overall, 75% chose to avoid the encounter, with direction of the encountering person not significantly moderating this percentage. However, the path choice data suggest that approaching a person from behind is even less attractive. Explanations are now being tested based on (1) attention restoration theory, (2) Wohlwill’s (1983) no feedback hypothesis, and (3) a sociability tendency. Qualitative data suggest that  the no feedback hypothesis explains the main choice findings, at least in this situation where participants report to feel safe, and therefore not in need of others immediate presence Final results will be presented at the conference.