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News from the CU system - UC Denver

Grant to fund study of redeveloped schoolyards' impact on health of children
Learning Landscapes, Center for Human Nutrition will team with 24 Denver schools

Grant to fund study of redeveloped schoolyards' impact on health of children
Photo courtesy of Learning Landscapes
Student use of playgrounds like the one at Denver's McMeen Elementary School will be studied by CU researchers

If you build it, they will play. If they play, will they get healthier?

That's what researchers with the University of Colorado Denver and the University of Colorado School of Medicine will be studying, thanks to a $3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.

Learning Landscapes, a program of the College of Architecture and Planning at UC Denver and the Center for Human Nutrition at the School of Medicine, will examine how Denver's redeveloped schoolyards, in combination with nutrition education, affect childhood activity levels and obesity rates.

The five-year grant will enable analysis at 24 Denver Public Schools (DPS) elementary playgrounds — half with newer Learning Landscapes playgrounds in place and half with older playground equipment and pea-gravel yards.

"So far, in small-scope evaluation of the landscapes that have been built at 48 Denver elementary schools, we found that the new play equipment and green spaces have influenced children's physical and creative activities," said Lois Brink, MLA, director of Learning Landscapes at UC Denver's College of Architecture and Planning and lead investigator on the study.

The grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development at the NIH will expand research into the effects of the landscapes on obesity by setting up interventions on physical activity arranged by gender, ethnicity and weight status. The study also will determine whether the interventions influence behavior change outside of school time.

"This grant will allow us to combine inventive nutrition education programs with innovative  physical activity programs in an environment that facilitates learning and play," said James O. Hill, Ph.D., director of the Center for Human Nutrition at UC Denver. "This should be a real win for DPS students."

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