Agony plant: you can keep your s.t.e.m, we've got our own
How adding plants to your workspace can physically improve attention span and harbour results
By Andrea Loftus
Illustration by Andrea Loftus
As a society in general, the daily routines we’ve comprised for ourselves result in us spending a shocking 75% or more of our day indoors.
Although not everybody has the luxury of taking an hour here and there for a leisurely lakeside stroll, multiple studies have demonstrated how bringing a taste of the outdoors in has numerous positive effects on learning and working environments.
I don’t know about you, but one school project that I never forgot was watching cress seeds grow from a meagre paper towel. The gratification wasn’t instant yet marvelling at the sprouting seeds instilled a sense of pride in every student, as well as giving us a sense of responsibility over our plant whilst still being … well, fun. Incorporating plants into younger schooling environments is an opportunity to teach care and responsibility without risking the class hamster meeting a morbid end under somebody’s floorboards. Promoting a sense of community around a physical living can also be transformative in teaching respect outside of the classroom, and with the current state of our environment, the leaders of tomorrow could do with an early footing in knowing the gifts of the greens.
In most curriculums, the plant cycle and parts are integral to understanding cellular functions and living things, and having these lessons physicalised aids understanding, especially for visual learners. Furthermore, their bonus noise-absorption function creates calmer environments and the presence of plants has demonstrated improved exam results and productivity.
Classrooms aren’t the cleanest of places in general, especially when congested students who may or may not have eaten a vegetable in several weeks are the ones filtering the air inside it. Installing a few known purifiers into a learning environment such as the English Ivy has demonstrated a reduction in CO2 levels, which if too concentrated can be a cause of headaches for students.
To avoid the spread of common illnesses in schools and universities, excess cleaning is constantly being carried out, consequenting in common cleaning product toxins like formaldehyde and ammonia circulating in our air. Simple resolution can be found in the form of the serene Peace Lily, a tranquil flower which thrives in shaded areas and therefore a perfect desk addition.
For the bigger kids in question such as university and college students, physical health is often overshadowed by the problems of increased mental health issues, under the pressure of large workloads and underfunded support systems. A Sydney University study in 2010 was a turning point in exploring the benefits of plants on mental as well as physical health, as the two are indisputably linked. An impressive result indicated that adding plants to a workspace can reduce the feelings of tension and anxiety by 37%, depression by 58% and fatigue by around 38%. I’m not sure adding a couple of Spider Plants to a Monday morning will inspire a get-up-and-go energy in all, but it’s most definitely worth a go.
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