The Relationship Between School Ground Design and Intensity of Physical Activity
Dyment, JE and Bell, A and Lucas, Adam, The Relationship Between School Ground Design and Intensity of Physical Activity, Children's Geographies, 7, (3) pp. 261-276. ISSN 1473-3285 (2009) [Refereed Article]
In this study, we investigated the relationship between school ground design and children's physical activity levels. In particular, we were interested in understanding the contribution of 'green' school ground design to physical activity levels. Data for this study were collected at an elementary school in Australia and in Canada. At each school, scans of Target Areas were completed to record the students' location and intensity of physical activity, based on the System for Observing Play and Leisure Activity in Youth (SOPLAY) (Australia: 23 scans, 6 Target Areas; Canada: 18 scans, 7 Target Areas). At both schools, the highest percentage of children present was engaged in vigorous physical activity on the manufactured equipment (42% of children/scan). Similarly, at both schools, the green area encouraged the highest percentage of children present to be engaged in moderate physical activity (47% of Australian children/scan, 51% of Canadian children/scan). The patterns of sedentary behavior differed slightly between countries. At the Australian school, the paved sporting courts (57%) and the paved canteen courtyard (50.5%) promoted the highest degree of sedentary play. At the Canadian school, the treed grassy berm (42%) and the treed concrete steps (43%) encouraged the highest percentage of sedentary behavior, followed by the open asphalt (34%). These results are also discussed in light of gender distribution. We conclude with a discussion of the design and cultural factors that influence children's physical activity on school grounds. We argue that if school grounds are to realize their potential to promote physical activity, they should include a greater diversity of design features and 'green' elements that engage children of varying interests and abilities in active play.
school ground; physical activity; natural elements; green play