Research Study Abstract

Mapping schoolyard behavior using GIS, GPS and accelerometers

  • Presented on May 21, 2014

Purpose: To investigate how schoolchildren use different schoolyard areas and whether these areas are associated with different types of behavior. Schoolyard characteristics seem to be related to behavior during recess, but exactly which behavior takes place where is unclear.

Methods: Time spent by 316 students (grade 5-8) in 5 types of schoolyard area was measured using global positioning system (GPS, QStarz BT-Q1000x) and the level of activity was measured using accelerometers (ActiGraph GT3X). Schoolyards were mapped in detail using a high precision GPS (Trimble GeoExplorer XT) and ArcGIS mobile. Total time and proportions of time spent sedentary and in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) were calculated per area type.

Results: Significant differences in activity levels were found. Grass and playground areas generated the greatest proportions of MVPA and solid surface areas had the highest proportion of time spent sedentary and the lowest proportion of MVPA. Boys and children generally spent a higher proportion of time in MVPA. Girls accumulated significantly more sedentary time in all types of area compared to boys.

Conclusions: This finding emphasizes the importance of investigating the potential of the various settings and features in the schoolyard in promoting physical activity. Grass and playground areas may play an important role in promoting physical activity in schoolyards, while a high proportion of time in solid surface areas is spent sedentary. Future studies might want to consider a combination of GPS, accelerometer and direct observation as this would enable determining which types of play are associated with MVPA or sedentary behavior.


  • Jasper Schipperijn
  • Henriette B Andersen
  • Charlotte Demant Klinker

Presented at

ISBNPA 2014 Annual Conference


, , , ,