The article, “Recognizing Campus Landscapes as Learning Spaces,” by Kathleen G. Scholl and Gowri Betrabet Gulwadi discusses how the whole campus can be used to help to add to overall learning experiences of students. She addresses the issues of attentional fatigue in students and utilizing the college campus to its full potential.

How can this be used to enhance the learning environment?

History of College Campuses

Scholl and Gulwadi start by talking about the “Historical Context of the American College Campus.” The word campus is derived from the Latin word for field (Scholl), and they were designed to be separated from the hustle and bustle of city life. The first place to represent this was Princeton University. The Morrill Act of 1862 made open campuses more prevalent, and geared more toward student learning through “working farms, forests, arboretums, greenhouses, gardens.” College campuses grew after the Great Depression and World War II, because student enrollment increased from 2.5 million to 7 million. Parking lots also started popping up because cars became more popular.The open space of campuses provides learning experiences to students, especially when it relates to the environment.

Attention and its Impact on Student Learning

The landscape has an impact on student learning alongside the actual subjects the students are studying. It has an impact upon student’s behavior by helping rest “mentally fatigued individuals.” According to Attention Restoration Theory, nature can help the human attentional system recover. (Scholl) The definition for nature can be broad. Scholl defines it as the “physical features and processes of nonhuman origin that people ordinarily can perceive,” and includes the open space of the campus. Nature affects direct and indirect attention. Direct attention requires students to focus, and it can be exhausted after a long period of use. After direct attention has been exhausted, students have decreased performance in their daily activities. Students performance can be restored through involuntary attention. (Scholl)

An example of an exhausted student.

Involuntary attention allows the neural mechanisms used in direct attention to rest because it employs less used forms of concentration. (Scholl) This is activated by nature. Having places on the campus that allow for the students to interact with nature can therefore help rest the neural mechanisms that are utilized by direct attention.


Holistic Landscapes

Stimuli from the landscape is required for indirect attention to come about. Interaction with the landscape can be classified as indirect, incidental, and intentional. The different settings it can occur in are indoor, urban, fringe, a production landscape, in the wilderness, and with specific species. Scholl provides a table that lists examples of how students can interact with their campus. Features such as the placing of indigenous plants can help tailor the environment students are in to facilitate their use of indirect attention. Scholl also suggests that taking breaks can aid in restoring their direct attention. Integration of other features can serve to further enhance the restoring affect of indirect attention.


Isn’t this relaxing?



Traditional college campuses do not provide enough ways for students to relax their minds. Holistic landscapes that have well integrated features of nature can aid in this area. By adding nature features and stimulating indirect attention, students will have a chance to restore their cognitive abilities.





Scholl, Kathleen, & Gowri Betrabet Gulwadi. “Recognizing Campus Landscapes as Learning Spaces.” Journal of Learning Spaces [Online], 4.1 (2015): n. pag. Web. 11 Feb. 2016