Ernesto Rodriguez, who lives on Southern California’s Catalina Island, photographs trees. Since 2018, his nonprofit Nature in the Classroom has printed and installed lifesize tree canopies on ceilings in more than 30 schools in 10 school districts across California and Colorado, and, recently, one in New York. Attention Restoration Theory posits that spending time in nature, or even viewing photos of nature, can improve attention-directed abilities. A two-year pilot study found the canopies have a settling effect on students, while children themselves report feeling happier. For Rodriguez, the most meaningful validation so far came from a kindergartner in Colorado. “I said, ‘Hey, what do you like about having a tree in your classroom? And she looks at me, and she goes, ‘It calms me up.’”

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