Plants to enhance learning
April 16, 2019
Plants do a lot more than look good! Their health benefits and impact on learning make them great additions to any home or classroom, particularly for young learners, and the tips in this guide will help you decide which plants are best for creating a positive learning environment.
Every child needs a learning environment that encourages them to do their best, whether that’s a classroom or the kitchen table, so Nicky Roeber from Wyevale Garden Centres has put together this guide for choosing educationally-beneficial plants.
Plants provide so many benefits to a child’s mental and physical wellbeing. They have practical uses, health benefits, and they can even increase a child’s ability to learn. So, here is my advice for which plants to pick to create a positive learning environment at home or in school.
Health and wellbeing
Live plants make a fantastic addition to any learning environment because they purify the air, making it easier to breathe and concentrate. Spider plants, English ivy, and bamboo were found to be amongst the best plants for improving air quality in a study by scientists at NASA, and are species that don’t mind being kept indoors away from bright sunlight. They also absorb dust and help to keep surfaces clean, which is one less chore to worry about.
Well-watered plants also increase the humidity in a room by releasing water vapour into the air, which can be a big help for kids with respiratory problems like asthma. Remember to encourage children to keep on top of watering the plants to get the most out of this benefit.
Learning and behaviour
As well as making it easier to breathe, houseplants reduce physiological and psychological stress which makes children feel comfortable and soothed — the perfect state to begin learning.
There has been plenty of research into this calming effect of plants in workplaces: offices are using plants to decrease stress while increasing productivity, according to the University of Exeter, and interaction with plants can increase short term memory, the University of Michigan found. Indoor plants were even suggested to combat eye-strain and headaches for people who spend a lot of time around computers, as so many young learners do, by the Journal of Physiological Anthropology.
This research suggests that having houseplants in learning environments as well as workplaces could help kids focus and retain the information they’ve learnt during lessons, as well as decrease the effects of screen fatigue on younger generations.
Projects and practicals
Many of the plants best suited to learning environments can be used as resources for biology lessons. Plants that are fast-growing, like beans, sprouts, and some garden vegetables, work perfectly as time and budget-friendly science projects because kids can see the results over the course of a few days without microscopes or other costly equipment.
Cress in particular is often used to show germination, as it happens very quickly and the seeds don’t have to be covered by soil to grow. Plus, kids can use the cress they have cultivated in various recipes to encourage them to think about where their food comes from.
Growing cress seeds in different conditions is a good basic experiment for introducing children to variables. For example:
- Give one pot water and sunlight
- Give one pot water but no sunlight
- Give one pot sunlight but no water
- Give one pot no sunlight nor water
Ask them to make predictions about which seeds they think will grow best, then show them how to record their results. Afterwards, they can analyse what they have found and determine what the organism needs to survive. These are all key skills used in scientific research that can then be applied to bigger and more complex experiments in the future, so it’s good to teach them early on.
This great advice could really help your child revise in a positive learning environment! We’ve also got some alternative revision tips for extra ideas when preparing for exams on our blog.
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