I love my Prescott adviser.  I mean, you have to love a guy who did his dissertation on Children and Nature.  I had mentioned in my latest activity in his class that I had listened to an NPR commentary on gang violence in Chicago stating that there had been 36 school age deaths related to violence since the beginning of the school year, and how that is down from the previous school year though expected to rise with the warmer weather.  I began wondering if inner city kids, who’s public schools resemble a prison, were allowed to change the aesthetic of their environment if that would radically change the proportionate amount of violence.  I was suggesting a very simple very cheap answer, like allowing the kids to decorate their own learning spaces.  My adviser (Terril Shorb) suggested I look at the work of Frances Kuo and William Sullivan which you can find here:

http://lhhl.uiuc.edu/all.scientific.articles.htm

In a short entitled Vegetation May Cut Crime in the Inner City their reasearch shows, “compared with buildings that had little or no vegetation, buildings with high levels of greenery had 48 percent fewer property crimes and 56 percent fewer violent crimes. Even modest amounts of greenery were associated with lower crime rates. The greener the surroundings, the fewer the number of crimes that occurred.”  Furthermore they suggest, “Greenery lowers crime through several mechanisms. First, greenery helps people to relax and renew, reducing aggression. Second, green spaces bring people together outdoors, increasing surveillance and discouraging criminals. Relatedly, the green and groomed appearance of an apartment building is a cue to criminals that owners and residents care about a property and watch over it and each other.” (http://lhhl.uiuc.edu/crime.htm)

Their work also addresses increased stress coping abilities, concentration, and self displine in children and adults.
It reminds me of articles I’ve seen on behavior in school age children eating more natural foods.  Kuo and Sullivans research, sadly, addresses solely social interaction, sense of safety, and preferences for greenery.  I really wish they had followed their studies with things like blood pressure monitoring and life expectancy, which I presume are also beneficially affected.

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