School grounds : children’s perspectives on qualities, use and social support

University essay from SLU/Dept. Of Landscape Architecture, Planning and Management

Abstract: School grounds are places where children spend a lot of time during all of their school years, and therefore central for many children’s everyday life. School grounds are an important part of the school settings that affect several dimensions of children’s health, since the built environment can facilitate or constrain physical activity. Health benefits from school grounds include physical activity for children. Play outdoors tends to increase the physical activity. Also, their social health benefits due to the cooperative and creative play and improvement in mental health. This reduces stress levels and enhances self-confidence. Today schools are getting bigger and expand to receive more children. Therefore it is important for school grounds to have a high quality, to support and promote children’s health and development. At school grounds there needs to be space for play, but also spaces for dialogue, privacy, peace and sensations. Children’s perspectives are needed in order to gather knowledge about what children value at school grounds. This study has focused on children’s perspectives in their school ground and how they use different spaces for different purposes. Methods for the study are questionnaire, children’s drawings and child-led walks, conducted in two different school grounds with different environmental qualities. The participants are children in grade four and six. The results shows that important activities for children in school grounds are different kinds of ballgames, physical activities and socializing. Places that are socially supportive for children could be the whole school ground, depending on which activity or purpose. The immediate environment outside the classroom is important and should be inviting and contain opportunities for different kinds of activities. Places perceived as safe in school grounds are places that include vegetation and where the child can choose to socialize or withdraw from others. Places perceived as unsafe in school grounds are places that are enclosed, or separated and bare, where there are not so many other children or adults.

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