Media Release: Green space and student’s academic outcomes explored in new study: Hort Innovation

June 252024

A team of urban horticulturists, ecologists and psychological scientists have been assembled through a new initiative to show why green spaces in primary schools could help Aussie kids flourish in a myriad of ways.

Delivered through Hort Innovation and led by the University of Melbourne, the $2.5M ‘Better green spaces in Australian primary schools’ initiative will advance the growing body of evidence on the benefits of nature by exploring how children’s behaviour, cognitive development, academic performance and wellbeing are influenced by green spaces at school.

The insights will be translated into practical, Australian-based resources that provide a rationale for why green spaces are important in primary schools; how different types of green spaces contribute to children’s development, health and wellbeing; and what capacity exists to expand and enhance green spaces within typical school grounds.

Hort Innovation General Manager for Production and Sustainability Dr Anthony Kachenko said the work will promote the benefits of nursery and turf products to the wider Australian community.

“By showcasing the benefits of green spaces to school communities, this project will create sustained demand for green spaces, supporting the growth of nursery and turf products,” Dr Kachenko said.

“The practical resources developed through this program will help grow the demand from students, teachers, and the broader school community for more varied and multi-functional green spaces at school, based on the important role they play in child development, school experiences, and the health and wellbeing of students and teachers.”

University of Melbourne Professor in developmental psychology Katherine Johnson said the research team is looking forward to measuring the connection between green space and children’s development.

“A key part of the program will be engaging with school communities to conduct needs assessments and understand user perspectives on the benefits of increasing green spaces,” Dr Johnson said.

“We will also use spatial analysis to showcase current green areas and the potential for expanding green areas in schools. An opportunity assessment will outline growth possibilities for schools nationwide, understanding barriers and offering insights on how to overcome these barriers.”

Proteaflora Nursery Managing Director David Mathews said greenlife plays a part in setting children up for success.

“We know that spending time surrounded by greenlife has a positive impact on wellbeing, so why wouldn’t we ensure that Aussie kids have access to green spaces?” Mr Mathews said.

“At our nursery, we see firsthand the joy and calm that plants can bring, so it’s exciting to know that this program will play in part in nurturing young minds.”

Greenlife Industry Australia Chief Executive Officer Joanna Cave said increasing demand is a priority for the sector.

“‘Better green spaces in Australian primary schools’ will deliver practical, evidence‑based solutions that maximise green spaces for healthier, happier students and teachers. This project will demonstrate the tangible value of urban greenlife, raising consumer awareness and ensuring greenlife products are top of mind in planning decisions,” Ms Cave said.

This project is delivered through Hort Innovation’s Frontiers and is supported by two other projects that champion the benefits of green spaces in Australian schools, including:

  • Green spaces in high-needs schools: Led by Deakin University, this project will generate vital evidence and resources about benefit of green space in high-needs primary schools.
  • Green spaces in secondary schools: Led by the University of Canberra, this project will focus on the green space opportunities and challenges in secondary schools.

Media contact: Lauren Jones | 0427 140 765 | lauren.jones@horticulture.com.au

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