In the position piece, “Recognizing Campus Landscapes as Learning Spaces”, Kathleen G. Scholl and Gowri Betrabet Gulwadi question how students utilize their college campus as an ideal learning space. A campus’ location, landscape, and use has a large impact on how a student will thrive in that environment. A campus itself is supposed to represent the best space in which a student can learn in, but over the years, this definition of “the best learning environment” has changed. Traditionally, this meant that a school would be typically be placed in a suburban area, a good distance from the distractions of the city. But today, it is becoming increasingly more common that college campuses are either closer to the city, or located directly within the city itself. But even with the growing number of city campuses, views of nature can also be beneficial in providing an ideal space for education. Scholl and Gulwadi come to the conclusion that “Attention to a mix of different learning spaces that combine nature and interesting architecture (Orr, 2004) provide more options for regulating learning and restoration cycles.” The most important aspect of a college campus is that it be used as a resource for the student’s education, and should direct the student’s focus on learning.

   

American University’s quad is abundant with nature. It also happens to be a popular place for students to study, or just lay around and take a break.

   A campus by definition is just the grounds a university is placed on. But in reality, a campus is much more than that. A campus “expresses something about the quality of academic life, as well as its role as a citizen of the community in which it is located” (Dober, 1996, p.47). It is important to keep in mind that higher learning is the main focus of a university, and the campus should reflect that. According to Scholl and Gulwadi, learning does not just take place in classrooms, in small desks facing a teacher and a whiteboard at the front of the room. Higher learning also does not just magically happen when students have brand new technology. The entire campus as a whole must be recognized as an ideal environment for learning. The authors do not just simply say that going outside and sitting on the quad once in awhile will make the student feel more engaged with their school. Instead, the authors specifically state that the entire campus must be an opening and welcoming environment for maximum learning potential. Scholl and Gulwadi say “…we also addressed the importance of providing multi-dimensional access to student-nature campus interactions. We expanded the notion of a university campus to include our conceptualization of a holistic landscape, and expanded the notion of student learning to include our vision of dynamic and holistic learning so that much-needed breaks/pauses in learning can occur in all kinds of indoor and outdoor enclosures.” A university’s campus cannot just look nice, instead it must actually provide an environment in which students feel they are able to successfully pursue a higher education. The beauty and aesthetic appeal of the campus must also provide a functionality behind it.

gw-campus-map

George Washington University, another school in Washington DC, is located within the city, a stark difference between AU and it’s landscape.

       Scholl and Gulwadi claim that the key to an ideal learning space is nature. By having many different elements of nature surrounding the campus and the student, the campus itself will seem more inviting and encouraging to a student’s personal growth. This has much to do with mental relaxation a student encounters after class. During a lecture, a student will be concentrating hard on one singular subject, which after seventy-five minutes or so can be exhausting. This is where nature plays a key role in a student’s academic success. The mental relief a student feels the minute they step out on the quad has more benefits than one. “de Bloom, Kinnunen and Korpela (2014) found that people in corporate settings benefit most from directed attention breaks spent in natural settings.Student-nature interactions during study breaks help restore attention (Felsten, 2009).We do suggest that regular cognitive breaks from direct attention in natural settings can help students regulate, replenish, and strengthen cognitive function and ability to prepare for either the next round of classes or improve the effectiveness and efficiency of an independent study period”(Scholl and Gulwaldi). By having a balance of a traditional classroom setting, and a setting filled with nature, a student will be better mentally balanced compared to a student that stays inside a classroom all day. Even though outside of class a student is not actively paying attention to their surroundings, the environment they are situated in plays a large role in their mental health and relief. In a digital age, students still benefit from a natural landscape. Nature provides a student with many cognitive benefits and a stronger connection to the university’s overall community. It is important to note that the authors do acknowledge that not all learning can take place outside, but that is not what they  are advocating for. The authors say “flexibility in seating and spatial configuration can begin to help diffuse this emphasis and begin to accommodate other auditory and kinesthetic learning modalities. We also recognize that outdoor class instruction is not suited or appropriate for all academic domains” (Scholl and Gulwadi). Even though actual learning and instruction takes place in classrooms and lecture halls, the importance lies in the outdoor spaces a student go to between class, serving them the mental break they need, but still in an environment where students feel motivated in their studies.

harvard-campus

Harvard University, the top school in the US, is no stranger to nature on their campus.

       Overall, the a campus landscape serves a larger purpose than just being  a space where students learn. A campus encases the entire community of the student’s learning experience, and it is vital that this environment provides an adequate space where a student can maximize their knowledge. A scenery filled with nature is the answer to this. Not only does this provide a nice view, it provides the student with relief from the stress of their schoolwork. A space where a student can go relax in between classes helps the student focus, and feel connected to a community of learning. A student is in a motivating environment as such will be feel more enthusiastic and interested in their learning compared to a student who remains in the same environment for the entirety of their school day.

Works Cited

       Scholl, Kathleen G., and Gowri Betrabet Gulwadi. “Recognizing Campus Landscapes as

Learning Spaces.” University of North Carolina Greensboro 4.1 (n.d): n. Pag. Web. 23

Oct. 2016.