Reading Analysis: “Recognizing Campus Landscapes as Learning Spaces”

In their article, “Recognizing Campus Landscapes as Learning Spaces,” Kathleen Scholl and Gowri Gulwadi advocate for the necessity of interaction with nature on college campuses because it can help students maintain or restore cognitive function such as direct attention, problem solving, focus and concentration, impulse inhibition, and memory. In order to reach full potential, a college student must be stimulated through “well-designed and connected networks of indoor and open spaces on campuses,” meaning students should be walking outdoors between classes, not just from hall to hall to reach their full potential. The implication of nature adds a sense of community and value to the campus as well, benefitting all teachers, students, and employees.  

The University of Washington’s Quad has 31 Yoshino cherry trees, making for a beautiful social space.

The University of Washington’s Quad has 31 Yoshino cherry trees, making for a beautiful social space.

 

The history of college campuses shows that student success increased more as observatory space for agricultural, technical education, and scientific research were constructed. The Morrill act of 1862 required new buildings to provide this space, contributing to student learning through “its working farms, forests, arboretums, greenhouses, gardens.” Students were learning more than they could have in only clustered buildings. For example, students were taught “natural resources management, sustainability/ecology, agriculture, forestry, etc. and more recently, a focus on environmental education and sustainable practices,” leading to a new awareness of how important environmental protection is.

Gettysburg College greenhouse facility. It’s faculty staff and students are committed to improving sustainability.

Gettysburg College greenhouse facility. It’s faculty staff and students
are committed to improving sustainability.

 

Additionally, when students interact with nature, their cognitive function such as direct attention, problem solving, focus and concentration, impulse inhibition, and memory are being maintained and restored. This attentional system is referring to direct and involuntary attention. Involuntary attention stimulated by natural green environments, will thus better a student’s direct attention, improving their working memory, impulse inhibition, and concentration. This proves that a natural landscape has attention-restorative benefits and positively influences learning and academic performance.

A student’s learning is dynamic, meaning their ideas are enriched by instructed classroom experiences in addition to non-classroom occurrences. Quads and benches surrounded by green trees and brushes around the college campus promote these outside occurrences. For example, the American University surrounds a large, green quad where attending students socialize, study, and gather. This extracurricular experience promotes their success.

Furthermore, open spaces in higher education communities add value to the campus environment by “creating a sense of community, curbing escalating campus density, serving social and recreational needs, providing environmental benefits, and facilitating fundraising and recruitment of both faculty and students.” Without these open spaces, student and staff members would just walk from destination A to destination B, depriving them of any human interactions. These human interactions are necessary to build a stable community.

Students that attend Manhattan College gather on the quad to socialize during the spring time.

Students that attend Manhattan College gather on the quad to socialize during the spring time.

Learning spaces that utilize nature and create social spaces broaden learning opportunities for students. A naturalistically designed campus opens opportunities for learning and provides cognitive benefits, such as improved direct attention. Furthermore, a sense of community is built through social interaction in these open spaces, raising the quality of higher education campuses.

Works Cited

Kratsas, Gabrielle. “35 Great Value Colleges with Beautiful Campuses.” Great Value Colleges.  N.p.,  n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2016.

Scholl, Kathleen, and Gowri Gulwadi. “Recognizing Campus Landscapes as Learning Spaces |   Scholl | Journal of Learning Spaces.” Recognizing Campus Landscapes as Learning Spaces | Scholl | Journal of Learning Spaces. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2016.

“Manhattan College.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 31 Aug. 2016. Web. 28 Oct. 2016.

“Campus Initiatives.” Gettysburg College –. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2016.

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