Neighborhood greenspace leads to greater spatial working memory among children

We all know that spending time in greenspace is healthy for humans. We have all experienced that joy of going to a local park or strolling past a recently cleaned up lot that used to be blighted and vacant. But what exactly is it about neighborhood greenspace that affects the human brain in such an impactful way? Well, researchers in England sought to answer this question in a recent study and their conclusions are quite interesting.

The study focused on the impact of neighborhood greenspace on the working spatial memory of children in various communities. Spatial memory is the part of the memory responsible for recording information about one’s environment and visuospatial orientation, such as the capacity required to navigate around a familiar city or neighborhood. Prior to this study carried out in urban communities across England, spatial working memory had not been linked to exposure to greenspace.

The research investigated the association between the quantity of outdoor greenness at home and school and young children’s attention and, specifically, spatial working memory. Greenspace, particularly around school, was positively linked with both cognitive outcomes. According to the study, active exploration of an environment leads to better spatial learning and way-finding than does passive exposure.

4,758 11-year-olds were asked to complete a standard test in which they were asked to search for blue tokens on a computer screen by clicking on boxes of various colors. The key aspect of the assignment is that the children were instructed not to return to a box when a token has already been found, which forced the children to remember which boxes have already been searched. Through this method the researchers found children living in greener neighborhoods have better working memory.

Eirini Flouri, a professor of psychology at the University College London and lead researcher of this study, hopes that the findings from this study will influence policy decisions about both education and urban planning. She says, “A strong case could be made for outdoor learning, and for easy access to urban green space.” Grounded Strategies is excited about this research, especially when considering the implementation of greenspaces, specifically Green PLAYces, in Pittsburgh neighborhoods and the effect they have on young people within the community.


  • Flouri, Eirini, et al. “The Role of Neighbourhood Greenspace in Children’s Spatial Working Memory.” British Journal of Educational Psychology, 5 Sept. 2018, doi:10.1111/bjep.12243.
  • Jacobs, Tom. “Why Green Space Is Good for Kids’ Brains.” The Week, 20 Oct. 2018,

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