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UT faculty is joining community volunteers today and Saturday, June 7, to install a new natural playground at the North Head Start Center. The playground will give students a new recreation area and provide researchers with an opportunity to study the environment’s impact on children’s activity levels.

The installation began 8:00 a.m. today and will continue until 4:00 p.m. at the center, 1008 Breda Drive. It will continue 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Saturday.

The effort is part of the Partners through Playgrounds project, which will study how urban playscapes impact children’s activity levels and play styles. The project is led by Mary Jane Moran, UT associate professor and interim head of the Department of Child and Family Studies. It is conducted in collaboration with Dawn Coe, assistant professor in the UT Department of Kinesiology, Recreation, and Sport Studies, and Robyn Brookshire, director of the UT Early Learning Center.

The playground will serve as a laboratory for the UT Department of Child and Family Studies and the UT Department of Kinesiology, Recreation, and Sport Studies. The UT Department of Child and Family Studies is paying for the playground through a grant it received from the UT Office of Research and Engagement and donations from community partners.

Community partners participating in the installation include Knoxville’s Community Development Corporation, Americorps, and the City of Knoxville Urban Forestry Department.

UT has previous experience studying natural playgrounds. In 2012, the UT Early Learning Center installed a natural playground at one of its locations. Dawn Coe examined changes in physical activity levels and patterns in young children at the center exposed to both traditional and natural playgrounds. Her study, which was among the first of its kind in the United States, revealed that children who play on playgrounds that incorporate natural elements like logs and flowers tend to be more active than those who play on traditional playgrounds with metal and brightly colored equipment. They also appeared to use their imagination more, according to the report.

C O N T A C T :

Lola Alapo (865-974-3993,

Meagan Green (713-504-3664,

Mary Jane Moran (865-974-6269,