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UC Arlitt Center Awarded NSF Grant to Research Learning at PlayScapes


The grant will support researchers as they observe how the area’s youngest learners gain a grasp on science through play in a natural, outdoor learning lab.

Date: 11/21/2011 12:00:00 AM
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos By: Lisa Britton

UC ingot   The University of Cincinnati Arlitt Child and Family Research and Education Center was awarded a $330,124 grant from the National Science Foundation to explore how children can learn through their own creative play in natural playgrounds. The grant – to be funded over two years –  will support researchers as they observe young children exploring the new Marge &  Charles Schott Nature PlayScape at Cincinnati Nature Center as well as the PlayScape that is currently under construction on UC’s Uptown campus.

PlayScapes are natural settings where children can interact with and learn about nature.

Victoria Carr
Victoria Carr

Victoria Carr, principal investigator on the NSF grant and director of the UC Arlitt Child and Family Research and Education Center, says the NSF-funded research project will examine:

  • Children’s behavior and movement patterns in the PlayScapes
  • Children’s scientific thinking that may occur during play
  • How the PlayScapes may fuel children’s interest in science

The research project will focus on more than 200 children aged three to five. The research will get underway in March.

The Cincinnati Nature PlayScape Initiative partnership was initially supported by a grant from the Harriet Williams Downey Fund at Greater Cincinnati Foundation that was awarded to Cincinnati Nature Center. The grant was to support the preparation of landscape architects in creating nature PlayScapes, build two PlayScapes in Greater Cincinnati and educate the Cincinnati USA community about the health and educational benefits of frequent play in nature. A PNC Grow Up Great science grant provided additional support to the partnership. Carr adds that another exciting outcome of the initiative is the partnership’s efforts to ensure that every child in Greater Cincinnati will eventually have access to exciting outdoor play environments.

The Cincinnati Nature Center opened its 1.6 acre Marge &  Charles Schott Nature PlayScape last August. Construction on UC’s 10,000 square foot PlayScape is expected to be completed in June.

Research team members on the NSF-funded project include:

  • Rhonda Brown, UC associate professor, early childhood education
  • Heidi Kloos, UC associate professor of psychology and director of the UC Children’s Cognitive Research Lab
  • Eleanor Luken, a UC research associate for the Arlitt Center
  • Catherine Maltbie, a UC research associate for the Evaluation Services Center, UC College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services (CECH)
  • Kathlyn Steedly, a UC research associate for the Evaluation Services Center
  • Nicole Hammons, a UC graduate student in educational studies
  • Alan Wight, a UC graduate student in educational studies
  • Gabe Gales, a UC graduate student in educational studies
  • Mona Jenkins, a UC sophomore in early childhood education


Read More About the PlayScape Project at the University of Cincinnati