Texas Tech University

Design, Landscape Architecture Departments Combine to Fight Childhood Obesity

George Watson

August 5, 2016

Jungle Gym

The OLE! Texas project will renovate child care play spaces in order to promote Outdoor Learning Environments.

Jungle Gym

A key component in the ongoing fight against childhood obesity is giving children a safe, innovative and fun place to play. In some instances, that can be a struggle.

A collaboration at Texas Tech University between the Department of Design and the Department of Landscape Architecture is aiming to change that. Through the Natural Learning Initiative (NLI) developed at North Carolina State University, the two Texas Tech departments are spearheading OLE! Texas, a multidisciplinary project that will create early childhood promotion strategies by renovating childcare center Outdoor Learning Environments (OLE).

Kristi Gaines

“This is a great opportunity for Texas Tech to partner with state agencies, other universities and professional organizations to promote child health,” said Kristi Gaines, director of graduate programs in the Department of Design. “I am eager to learn from and work alongside such an accomplished group of professionals.” 

The program's first project in Texas will be done in Lubbock at a local child care center. A community presentation to open the project is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Aug. 9 (Tuesday) at the Red Raider Lounge in the Student Union Building.

Gaines and Charles Klein, an associate professor in the Department of Landscape Architecture, are spearheading the effort at Texas Tech. Along with other local partners, they will design plans to transform the play space at a selected childcare center so that children and families have an exciting and stimulating OLE.

Charles Klein
Charles Klein

“This is an exciting opportunity to learn from a national leader about the design of outdoor play spaces,” Klein said. “I'm excited also to work with the Department of Design and the stage that this project will set for future collaborative research opportunities, both applied and scientific.”

The NLI is an effort spearheaded by North Carolina State to address early childhood obesity by improving conditions attending child care centers. It is designed to promote the natural environment in daily life through environmental design, action research, education and information.

Gaines said the hope is this project will make Texas Tech's collaboration the model demonstration center for other child care centers in Texas.

The project is supported by the Obesity Prevention Program with the Texas Department of State Health Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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