An application of measuring visual and non-visual sensorial experiences of nature for children within primary school spaces: child–nature–distance case studies in Glasgow, Scotland

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Purpose: Proximity to nature is essential to a child’s development. Well-designed educational environments are crucial to supporting this proximity, particularly in the early years of schooling. The purpose of this paper is to measure children’s experiences of nature within three primary school spaces at various locations in Glasgow, Scotland. The methodology for measuring children’s visual and non-visual sensory experiences is developed to evaluate the connection between naturalness values and spatial environmental qualities across varying “Child–Nature–Distance” ranges. Design/methodology/approach: The approach associates children’s multiple layers of sensory modalities with particular attributes of the spatial environment within primary schools to determine the level of naturalness that children experience, in both internal and external spaces. Findings: The study finds that children’s experiences are significantly influenced by factors relating to urban setting, built environment master planning, architectural features and interior design. Research limitations/implications: Apart from primary school architecture for children, this methodology could be fully developed to the comprehensive human–nature relationship under the impacts of physical features and societal of other diversified environments in a future study. However, the offering reasonable primary school architecture for a proper children’s multi-sensorial experience with natural environment cannot thoroughly established with a quantitative aspect by the present study only. More qualitative research is recommended to examine the process of altering from “cause” to “perceived” nature of users’ cognitions, attitudes and behaviours within the exposure proximity to nature. Practical implications: The methodology for measuring visual and non-visual sensorial experiences of nature, and its application to children’s learning and leisure spaces within primary school architecture could offer a tool for assessing current schools, and evaluating future design proposals for new schools. Originality/value: The authors argue that the applicationof this method can support design decision making for refurbishing schools at the micro level, and in planning urban development involving proposals for new schools at the macro level.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages20
JournalArchNet-IJAR: International Journal of Architectural Research
Early online date31 Oct 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 31 Oct 2019


  • primary schools
  • permeability
  • naturalness value
  • nature syntax
  • sensorial experience
  • spatial environment

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