Summary of “Recognizing Campus Landscapes as Learning Spaces”

Recognizing Campus Landscapes as Learning Spaces explores the notion that all campus spaces significantly effect students holistic learning experience. Scholl and Gulwadi define campus as “the overall physical quality of higher education institutions (Scholl and Guwadi 1).” A campus’s physical landscape has the power to shape behavior of students and are of equal significance to traditional learning spaces (Scholl and Guwadi 2). Approximately only one quarter of a students time is spent inside a traditional learning space such as a classroom, which means the vast majority of time is spent elsewhere on campus. The design of these other spaces have the capability to foster a sense of belonging and enhance student’s cognitive abilities.

The mental demands of attending a university are extremely high, and extended periods of constant cognitive stimulation impair a students ability to focus. According to the Attention Restoration Theory, nature has the ability to restore cognitive function and interacting with nature is necessary to recover the human attentional system. Nature defined in the context of campus life includes “physical features and processes of nonhuman origin that people ordinarily can perceive including the “living nature” of flora and fauna, together with still and running water, qualities of air and weather and the landscapes that comprise these and show the influences of geological processes (Scholl and Gulwadi 2).” Nature is explain in this article as an involuntary attention, in which an individual is stimulated by natural causes by interacting with nature. Whereas direct attention involves long periods of mental stimulation and cognitive exhaustion. Contrary to direct attention, involuntary attention happens naturally and with less effort “thus allowing the neural mechanisms underlying directed attention a chance to rest and replenish (Scholl and Gulwadi 3).” Students who do not undergo this replenishment face cognitive issues such as “difficulties in concentrating, reduced performance on tasks, higher rates of irritability and tension, and more impulsive and hostile behavior (Scholl and Gulwadi 2).”

Campus design is approached holistically, meaning approached as a whole. A successful holistic campus dynamically stimulates students in order to enhance the learning experience inside and out of the classroom. All space within the boundaries of a campus are of significance. Aspects that contribute to the holistic environment of a campus include height of buildings, views from windows, and geographical proximity to nature (Scholl and Gulwadi 4).” The built environment must partner with natural features to create a holistic learning environment. Holistic campuses achieve a balance between cognitive stimulation and cognitive restoration, direct attention and involuntary attention.

Students attending a college that promotes a holistic environment will live an enriched social and academic life. The future of campus planning consists of considering the benefits of human and nature interaction and designing all campus space according to the importance of the physical landscape.

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