Hort Journal: Vertical Health in School Greening

By Michael Casey MAIH RH

 

The benefits of Green Walls being installed on, inside and around buildings, homes and even classrooms in urban environments have been well documented in recent years. These benefits include, but not limited to:


• Reducing the heat island effect
• Cleaning and filtering air pollutants
• Can reduce air temperatures in and around the living wall
• Stormwater management
• Urban farming
• Biodiversity

 

There is evidence that Green Walls can also have a positive impact on children’s mental health, especially those at the secondary level. These include:


• Assisting children with ADHD to improve their focus
• Boosting teacher and student morale to support healthy student/teacher relationships
• Improvement of cognitive functioning

 

MJC Horticulture has partnered with Catholic Regional College (CRC) over the past 5 years designing and integrating green spaces on campus. The recent design and development of a new Study Hall, which is the building that year 11 and 12 VCE students sit their exams in, features a green wall. This was a deliberate design feature to ensure the students’ physical testing environment was optimised for the best outcomes.

 

The Green Wall is 50m2 in size and incorporates 1200 plants covering 12 different species. It features prominently in the centre of the Study Hall enabling each student sitting their exams, or using the room for study, to gain a full visual of the greenery.

 

50m2 greenwall positioned center of the sturdy hall for maximum exposure to students:

 

 

Some of the finer plant detail of the green wall. Pictured in the photos are Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Boston Fern’ and Chlorophytum comosum ‘Spider Plant’:

 

 


Research conducted by Stephen Kaplan from the Department of Psychology at the University of Michigan focuses on the restorative benefits of nature. His work analysed the idea that natural environments were in fact particularly high in the characteristics that are necessary for restorative experiences. And this was the exact intent behind installing a large Green Wall at CRC – to enable students to benefit from the exposure to nature within what would ‘naturally/normally’ be, a stressful environment.

 

The partnership between CRC and MJC Horticulture started 5 years ago when MJC Horticulture delivered, as part of the VCAL curriculum, outdoor education programs to support students who were challenged by social confidence issues, learning difficulties and personal issues that were impacting their school lives. The outdoor educations programs (‘Naturing Education’) provided students with a sense of ownership and purpose, the ability to contribute to the school community, character and confidence building skills, leadership development and mentoring opportunities and a safe and supportive learning environment.

 

CRC is currently developing a new policy focused on the benefits of implementing green spaces within the school environment which will also include design considerations for new buildings and infrastructure around the school campus. MJC Horticulture continues to partner with CRC as part of their commitment to creating the best possible learning environments for students and staff. MJC Horticulture was awarded the 2018 Australian Institute of Horticulture Award of Excellence for ‘vertical gardens for the physical and mental health of school students project’.

 

MJC Horticulture continues to focus on delivering green infrastructure projects to schools, offices, residential and commercial buildings with a strong emphasis on cost-effective ways to provide multiple benefits, and also contribute to a more liveable city.

 

Michael Casey is Director at MJC Horticulture Pty Ltd a Design, Consultation, Construction and Management company operating in and around Melbourne. He is currently President of the Australian Institute of Horticulture and National Councillor with Therapeutic Horticulture Australia.

 

Michael can be contacted on michael@mjchorticulture.com.au

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