The influence of houseplants in a child development center on young children's directed attention Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/x346d8908

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  • The near physical environment is believed to be an integral component in creating quality learning and classroom environments for young children. Free-choice play periods during preschool daily curriculums are a widespread component of preschool early childhood education. Research has demonstrated that the presence of houseplants may be a contributor to human ability to self-regulate their attention. Behind their popularity as environmental enhancements seems to be a general belief that the emotional experience of viewing greenery will help foster a more restorative environment. Educational settings of almost every size employ houseplants in both formal and informal settings and spend reasonable financial and person-hour effort to maintain these elements. Despite their ubiquitous nature, the educational value of houseplants has not been well documented. The problem of children experiencing stress and directed attention fatigue familiar to adults (e.g. irritability, difficulty concentrating and increased proneness for mistakes), may be compounded by over- or under-stimulating classroom designs and layouts. The mechanism behind directed attention is a fragile but vital means for learning to occur. Maintaining focus to surrounding stimuli is one way directed attention becomes fatigued. Proponents of Attention Restoration Theory believe contact with nature or views of nature may allow the brain to rest and restore, thereby allowing renewed ability to focus. This study addresses the interior design element, houseplants, popular in childcare facilities as a natural element, in relationship to preschool children's directed attention. In a quasi-experimental video observational pilot study, two groups of preschool children's attentional behaviors were compared within subject during a free-choice play period. Specifically length of attention, type of attentional state and type of adaptive behavior are analyzed over an 8-week period while 32 participants' self-select engagement at a sensory-activity table. Due to the small sample size, statistically significant results could not be revealed, however, there is indication via Cohen's d effect sizes that there may be a positive relationship between the presence of a group of houseplants and an improvement in young children‟s ability to direct attention.
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