Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The Discovery of Wild Things: Assessing Children's Play in Naturalized Playgrounds
by Jennings, Robyn, M.A., Prescott College, 2014, 96; 1555917
Abstract (Summary)

Outdoor spaces for young children are becoming increasingly recognized for their learning potential. A movement has begun to naturalize children's playgrounds. Designers and landscape architects are moving away from large, plastic superstructures, which allow children to climb and slide and instead creating spaces with interesting topography and water features which allow for more open-ended, imaginative play. In this study, research and data collection took place in three phases. Preschool playgrounds in Boulder, Colorado were evaluated using the Kritchevsky, Prescott, and Walling (1977) model to assess structures and layout for complexity and variety. Playgrounds were also assessed using the Preschool Outdoor Environment Measurement Scale (POEMS) developed by the University of North Carolina. In Phase II, four preschools were chosen to examine children's play. These schools were chosen based on their scores from Phase I. Play behaviors were assessed using scan sampling and coded with a modified Parten-Smilansky Play Scale developed by Shim, Herwig and Shelley (2001) as well as the behavior mapping definitions used in Dowdell, Gray and Malone's 2011 research. In conjunction with this data, a case study at Sunflower Preschool observed and interviewed children for a three-week period in the fall of 2013. The findings from this research indicate that the presence of loose parts and natural features may enhance the types of play displayed on playgrounds. This research focused on child-directed play as opposed to curriculum implementation in outdoor spaces and potentially enhances the credibility of programs like Nature Explore, which provides guidelines for creating a play space with less commercialized equipment and more natural features.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Matlock, Deb
Commitee: Keeler, Rusty, Sherman, Peter
School: Prescott College
Department: Environmental Studies
School Location: United States -- Arizona
Source: MAI 52/06M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Landscape architecture, Environmental education, Early childhood education
Keywords: Nature, Outdoor play, Playground assessment
Publication Number: 1555917
ISBN: 9781303894077
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