Since 1998, through a successful collaboration between multiple stakeholders, Learning Landscapes has transformed neglected Denver elementary school playgrounds into attractive and safe multi-use playgrounds that are tailored to the needs and desires of the local community. The Learning Landscape Program transforms playgrounds by creating fun, participatory play areas that encourage outdoor play and learning, improve opportunities for physical activity for children of all ages, �green� the grounds, and facilitate community ownership and use of the playgrounds.
Learning Landscapes serve as a catalyst for uniting health professionals, urban planners and designers, and educators to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the current educational policies and programs at Denver Public Schools as they relate to the promotion of physical activity and healthy nutrition among elementary school students. This assessment examines how Learning Landscapes are used in relationship to promoting children�s physical activity. This project seeks to use the knowledge gained through the assessment process to create and implement pilot site-based physical activity and nutrition programs at three Denver elementary schools: Eagleton, Remington, and Munroe. Ultimately, the results of this study are intended to inform future decision making with regard to physical activity curriculum and policies.
Role of School Community in Shaping This Project
All 3rd to 5th graders at Eagleton, Munroe and Remington Elementary Schools participated in this program. Eagleton Elementary located in the northwest section of Denver and had a population of 484 students in the 2003-2004 school year. Munroe Elementary, located in the Westwood neighborhood in West Denver, served a large and rapidly expanding student population of 605 students during the 2003-2004 school year. Remington Elementary School is located in northwest Denver and had a student population of 331 during the 2003-2004 school year. On average ninety-five percent of students were Hispanic and from 40% to 60% were English language learners. Ninety-two percent of the students qualified for the free or reduced lunch program.
A series of meetings were held in April and May of 2005 with the PE teachers from Eagleton, Munroe, and Remington to discuss: 1) Their current physical activity curriculum; 2) Their perceptions of the playground equipment in terms of what is working well and what needs to be improved in terms of physical activity opportunities; and 3) A list of possible physical activity interventions involving the playgrounds. These meetings allowed the interventions to be tailored to the needs, resources, and policies that are specific to each site.
- Convene an advisory committee composed of health, education, and design professionals to identify the specific steps for meeting the objectives proposed.
- Conduct an assessment of the physical environments from each site using; 1) DPS Site Assessment �Kit of Parts� Survey; 2) A Play Equipment Rating Matrix developed by Denver Public Schools, play equipment vendors, and the University of Colorado faculty; and, 3) Safety Assessment Forms.
- Conduct an assessment of the physical education curriculum and current policies regarding physical activity at each of the schools through a series of meetings with the PE teachers from Eagleton, Munroe, and Remington.
- Develop and administer a questionnaire to 3 rd through 5 th grade students to assess children�s attitudes towards physical activity and their physical activity levels and qualitative data was collected based on observations of the student�s playing on the playground during recess and PE classes
- Develop a pilot warm-up circuit program as part of the regularly scheduled physical education classes using the outdoor playground equipment and interactive community art projects to inform the community at large about health, physical activity and safety in their communities.
Lois Brink and Bambi Yost.
Do 'Learning Landscapes' - special playgrounds in Denver that are planned, designed, and built with community members - have an impact on the level of graffiti found on these playgrounds and in their surrounding neighborhoods and is there an explainable and visible pattern for this behavior?
The Caring for Colorado Foundation, August 9, 2004 � August 9, 2005.
Join with health, education, design, and community development professionals and other stakeholders to collaboratively supplement current knowledge about the links between increased physical activity, decreased obesity, and improved health status.
Identify potential program, curriculum, and policy interventions after gathering and analyzing relevant data about each school�s physical environment, physical education curriculum, and the student�s physical activity awareness and fitness levels.
Experiment with creative and motivational site-based strategies promoting physical activity. Integrate those site-based physical activity programs that are deemed successful into the school�s physical education curriculum or after school program.
The advisory committee was formed to identify the specific steps for meeting the objectives proposed in the project plan for the Caring for Colorado grant. Members of this committee met several times and also provided information regarding the district, state, and national standards for physical activity with elementary school children.
- Lois Brink, M.L.A., Director Learning Landscape Alliance, University of Colorado Denver
- Jim Hill, Ph.D., Director, Center for Human Nutrition, University of Colorado Denver
- Beverly Kingston, Ph.D., Project Director, Children, Youth and Environment Center for Research and Design
- Eric Larson, Director of Physical Education, Denver Public Schools
- Ed Melanson, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism, and Diabetes, University of Colorado Denver
- Bambi Yost, Project Manager Learning Landscape Alliance, College of Architecture and Planning, University of Colorado Denver