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Okanagan College research project to revolutionize outdoor play environments for children
Okanagan College Media Release

Okanagan College is looking into ways to make children’s activity healthier. 

The College’s Director of Learning and Teaching Dr. Beverlie Dietze and North Okanagan Regional Dean Jane Lister have received a $23,530 grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) that will see the design of new outdoor playscapes and equipment, and the study of those environments on child development.

“More than half of Canadian children under five years of age spend less than 10 hours per week playing outdoors versus 20 to 30 hours per week in sedentary activities,” says Dietze, who is spearheading the research portion of the project. 

“We know we have to find a way to make the best use of the outdoor time they do have and find ways to encourage more. Research shows a direct correlation between the increase in childhood obesity, depression, ADHD and heart disease with the decrease in outdoor play,” she says. 

Dietze, a leading Canadian expert in the study of this area, will be working with Outland Design Landscape Architects on applying the guiding principles of outdoor play to new playground design. Outland will be creating prototypes based on these principles and the children at the North Okanagan Child Care Society will be field-testing the prototypes. At the end of this project, Outland will have at least five designs that they can then use for commercial purposes and the daycare will have a new play space.

The project will allow Okanagan College to advance research and curriculum that emphasize the importance of municipalities, school districts, and child care centres to create purposeful outdoor play environments that contribute to developing active life styles, which in turn will have positive social and economic impacts for communities,” says Lister, who will be managing the project and coordinating the workshops and symposium that will be held in conjunction with the research early in the new year. 

Through the NSERC grant, Okanagan College will be hiring two students, one to help Dietze on the research and the other to work with Lister on the management and marketing of the project.

This project is just another example of the College’s commitment to industry-relevant applied learning.

“Okanagan College is committed to aiding innovation, helping local industry and providing career opportunities to students in the Okanagan through applied research,” says Okanagan College’s Vice President of Education, Dr. Andrew Hay.