Outcomes of Natural Play and Learning Spaces: A Collaborative Case Study with KidActive
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It has been argued that contemporary environmental issues may be in part attributable to a growing disconnect with the natural world (Liefländer, Fröhlich, Bogner, & Schultz, 2012; Louv, 2005; E. K. Nisbet, Zelenski, & Murphy, 2009; Pyle, 2003). Fortunately, there are those such as Richard Louv—who in his renowned book Last Child in the Woods brought marked attention to the increasing divide between children and the natural world—that recognize the need for a human-nature (re)connection. Louv (2005) highlights the need for innovative solutions that cater to an increasingly urbanized and technology-driven society that foster connections to nature, which are critical to the health and wellbeing of our society and planet. One such solution is a budding international interest in greening or naturalizing public playgrounds (Bell & Dyment, 2006). Although the relevant literature has made significant contributions to our understanding of naturalized playgrounds and the developmental outcomes that can be fostered in these spaces (Bell & Dyment, 2006; Moore, 2014; Raffan, 2000), current research fails to acknowledge the potential for naturalized play spaces to promote place meanings and an environmental ethic, which have implications on children’s connections and relationships with nature. Through a qualitative and collaborative case study of KidActive’s Natural Play and Learning Spaces (NPLS) program, this research project focused on identifying, understanding, and evaluating perceptions associated with naturalized playgrounds and the role they play in fostering nature connection, place meanings, and outcomes linked to individual and community wellbeing. Informed by tenets of participatory research, evaluative research, narrative inquiry, and observational research, this improvisational inquiry (Berbary & Boles, 2014) gathered the stories of various NPLS stakeholders. These narratives were then analyzed by weaving together tenets of narrative analysis (Glover, 2003; Polkinghorne, 1995), framework analysis, and program theory and logic modeling (McLaughlin & Jordan, 1999) oriented through a pragmatically minded constructionist lens (Crotty, 1998). Results of this work help to contextualize the importance of the provision of naturalized play spaces for children. Importantly, it highlights the perceived outcomes of these spaces and the ability of outdoor play and learning in these spaces to foster relationships with nature.
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Zachary Stevens (2017). Outcomes of Natural Play and Learning Spaces: A Collaborative Case Study with KidActive. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/12440