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KNOXVILLE (WATE) - The results are in from a new playground safety study at the University of Tennessee. Researchers looked at the difference between traditional vs. natural playgrounds.
Many people used to play on big, brightly colored plastic or metal playground equipment during recess. However, a new UT study found that a natural playscape, with logs and flowers, is more beneficial for students.
Four-year-old Audrey Zanders is a preschooler at UT's Early Learning Center. Last year, the school had a traditional playground. Now the metal and plastic equipment has been replaced with logs, tree stumps and a waterfall.
It's a natural setting Audrey enjoys. "I like to slide down the slide at the gazebo because I really like to I like to see the flowers," she said.
Dr. Dawn Coe, an assistant professor with UT's Department of Kinesiology, studied the students' behavior on traditional playgrounds compared to new, natural playgrounds and found quite a difference.
Dr. Coe says kids use their imaginations more in the natural setting to do activities like "watering the flowers, pretending like they were animals running through the trees, so they seemed to be engaged in more active imaginative play," she said.
She adds that natural playgrounds are more cost effective than traditional ones because the elements cost less and more students can use them at one time.
With the natural setting, Coe says more kids were off the porch and actually playing on the playground. Their activity level also increased.
In the traditional setting, data shows kids were inactive 20 percent of the time. However, their inactivity dropped to 16 percent with the natural playground.
Audrey says she's always active during recess. "I run and I jump, and I do all that stuff."
Dr. Coe says if children grow up playing and being around nature, when they become young adults they may enjoy more outdoor activities such as hiking or gardening.
The director of UT's Early Learning Center doesn't like to use the term recess. She says the natural playscape is basically an outdoor classroom where students continue learning.