Partners through Playgrounds: A Comparative Study of at-risk Children’s Activity Levels in Play
Mary Jane Moran, Associate Professor for Child Family Studies and Interim Department Head for the Teacher Research and Documentation Center, received a 2013-2014 Outreach and Engagement Incentive Grant that she and her partners put towards constructing a natural playground. The playground doubles as an observation lab for child behaviors. Moran worked with UT colleagues Robyn Brookshire, Executive Director of the Early Learning Center, and Dawn Coe, Assistant Professor in the Department of Kinesiology, Recreation, and Sport Studies.
The UT team partnered with Knox County’s Community Action Committee, Head Start, and other participating organizations and donors to construct the playground at the Head Start North Ridge Crossing location.
“It helps to find a way to touch the spirit of communal responsibility for the well-being of children,” said Moran.
“We look forward to our next project together,” said Head Start director Nancy Thomas.
The prototype playground not only benefited CFS research, but provided both CFS and their partners in the community with an opportunity to work conjointly in providing new and possibly better play opportunities for children.
The new playground is equipped with all-natural play sets, replacing traditional plastic and metal ones with tree logs, stumps and boulders for the kids to climb on.
CFS is using the Head Start playground to assess differences in child physical activity and play style. The project’s goal is to install four natural playgrounds at the remaining Head Start facilities and to expand teacher education in ways that would effectively maximize children’s outdoor play. Moran hopes that the new playgrounds will assist in combating child obesity and developing cognitive and social skills.
“The project has created a wide network of relationships between the university and the greater Knoxville community,” she said.