Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2015

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors


Environmental Design

First Advisor

Timothy McGinty

Second Advisor

Robert Mazzeo

Third Advisor

Georgia Lindsay

Fourth Advisor

Jade Polizzi


The rise in childhood obesity levels over the last few decades has brought increased attention to public playgrounds as an opportunity to promote healthy physical activity in children. The design of public playgrounds is now viewed as a factor that significantly influences children’s levels of activity that take place in that location. One crucial aspect of playground design is the use of different ground surface materials and how they promote either active or sedentary behavior. This investigation aimed to understand how ground surfaces influence physical activity levels in children and to determine what types of ground materials are the most affective at encouraging physical play. Through observation and behavior mapping, this study revealed that children are most physically active on synthetic rubber surfaces and the least physically active on loose fill surfaces. Supporting materials, or those that do not appear in the immediate playground area but still support child’s play in the surrounding park setting, such as concrete, grass, and compact dirt, yielded similarly moderate physical activity levels.