Engineering Physical Activity and Well Being Into the Playground


South Tower - Terrace (end of the hall)

  • Primary Core Competencies: Educational Visioning
  • AIA CEU: 1.0 LU HSW
  • Secondary Core Competencies: Design of Educational Facilities


In urban low-income Los Angeles neighborhoods, children have very few opportunities to engage in safe physical activity outside of the school campus. Currently, in Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and in many other inner city school districts, playground surfaces are covered primarily by asphalt. In a recent survey, it was estimated that the entire playground is paved without any tree canopy coverage at 20% of LAUSD schools. In addition, nearly 11% of L.A. County students are completely sedentary. Inactivity and obesity rates are disproportionately higher for girls, students from low-income families, and students from underrepresented populations. Fortunately, substantial green schoolyard programs which have been connected to reduction in the heat-island effect, increased physical activity, improved mental health, and social development for at-risk youth are underway and large-scale investments in school ground transformations are accelerating. In this panel, physical activity and physical education specialists as well as representatives from LAUSD Facilities Department will present evidence-based research demonstrating how to optimize the benefits of these investments during unstructured recess and curriculum-driven outdoor instruction.

Learning Objectives

OBJ #1  Participants will acquire new knowledge and skills in developing outdoor play spaces to enhance social and emotional development in elementary school children.

OBJ #2  Using case study examples, participants will identify design strategies to encourage movement and engagement with others.

OBJ #3  Participants will explore various types of materials to reduce heat island effect of asphalt playgrounds that result in physical and mental health benefits.

OBJ #4  Participants will examine the importance of physical activity to a child’s ability to focus, learn, resolve conflict and build resilience to adverse experiences outside of school.

Leona Ketterl, AIA, ALEP, LEED AP BD+C, Senior Architect, Rainforth Grau Architects

John Kruse, Physical Education Instruction Advisor, Los Angeles Unified School District

Marcella Raney, PhD, Associate Professor of Kinesiology, Occidental College