More than a View: School Landscape Features Are Associated with Improved Student Adjustment

Mollika Sajady, Amy L. Gower, Michael McCullough, Cathy Jordan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Objective:Research indicates that natural features surrounding schools are associated with better academic achievement, enhanced focus, and reduced stress in students. However, few studies have examined the associations between school landscape elements and anxiety, depression, and behavioral concerns in students. The purpose of this study was to determine whether greenery and impervious surfaces surrounding schools are associated with student internalizing and externalizing problems.Method:Fifth-grade students (n = 21,378) reported internalizing and externalizing behaviors on the 2016 Minnesota Student Survey, an anonymous school-based survey administered statewide. Geographic information system landscape data were available for 268 schools in metropolitan areas. We calculated the percentages of tree canopy, grass and shrub cover, and impervious surfaces within 300- and 500-m radius areas around each school building. Multilevel regression models evaluated the associations between student-level internalizing and externalizing behaviors and school-level landscape percentages, controlling for sex, race, and free/reduced-price lunch.Results:Students attending metropolitan schools with a higher percentage of impervious surfaces were more likely to report externalizing behaviors and marginally more internalizing symptoms than students in schools with a lower percentage of impervious surfaces. Higher percentages of tree canopy and grass and shrub cover surrounding schools were not associated with internalizing or externalizing behaviors.Conclusion:Increased impervious surfaces around schools in metropolitan areas were related to increased student externalizing behaviors. Further studies are necessary to understand the significance of the built environment, types of greenery, impact of greenery on student adjustment in nonmetropolitan settings, and varying areas surrounding schools. These results could inform initiatives to improve school landscapes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)436-442
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
From the *Division of Clinical Behavioral Neuroscience, Department of Pediatrics, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN; †Division of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Health, Department of Pediatrics, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN; ‡Environmental Education, Project Sustainability, Minneapolis, MN; §MN Institute on the Environment, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN; \Children & Nature Network, Minneapolis, MN. Received November 2019; accepted March 2020. Supported by the Leadership Education in Adolescent Health Fellowship Training Program (T71-MC-00006, MCHB, HRSA, DHHS; PI: Sieving). Minnesota Student Survey data were provided by public school students in Minnesota via local public school districts and managed by the Minnesota Student Survey Interagency Team, 2016. Disclosure: The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2020 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.


  • externalizing behaviors
  • greenery
  • internalizing symptoms
  • school landscapes
  • student adjustment

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.


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