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Preschool Teacher Receives Grant to Study Play
Nature-based Playgrounds Are Focus of Study

Preschool Teacher Receives Grant to Study Play

This nature playground in New Zealand has a braided river with water pumped through it, a tunnel, rocks, lots of native plants and a Department of Conservation hut (DOC Hut) where someone could stay using the honor system for $5-$15 a night. There are reportedly 950 of these types of huts in New Zealand.


Jessica Fong, a preschool teacher at John Spry Community School in Chicago, recently received a grant from the Chicago Foundation for Education to further her study of nature-based playgrounds and their correspondence to pretend play.

Fong started her research due to what she observed in 2017. Once a week she would take the students to a local nature playground, Jardincito Nature Playground, two blocks away from the elementary school. Fong noticed that the children seemed to be more collaborative and used more pretend play while they were at the nature playground, as opposed to the regular school playground.

Fong applied for a fellowship with the Chicago Foundation for Education and was awarded $1,750, which she used to further her research. Her method consisted of video taping children playing at nature playgrounds and regular playgrounds and then comparing them to see which setting resulted in the children using cooperative or pretend play more.

What she found was that children engaged in cooperative and imaginary play 44% at nature playgrounds and engaged in only 8% cooperative play and 15% pretend play on a traditional playground.

Additionally, she found that 50% of the language used on traditional playgrounds was either screaming, yelling or not talking. Whereas, only 8% of language on a nature playground was minimal and 15% was conflict language.

"What this tells us is that the children are engaging in much more rich and complex language in the nature playground versus the traditional playground and the classroom. When children are engaged in pretend play they have to use complex language and thought processes as they create play scenarios," Fong stated in an interview with Chalkbeat Chicago, a news organization.



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November 18, 2018, 4:58 am PST

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