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School of Environment and Natural Resources


Grants Fuel the Co-creation of Outdoor Play for Teen Girls and Their Communities

May. 27, 2024
Open field with trees.

Lily Mank, a distinguished university fellow, licensed landscape architect, and doctoral candidate in the School of Environment and Natural Resources at The Ohio State University has received a Graduate Small Grant for Feminist Scholarship from the Feminist Research, Education and Engagement (FREE) Center in the College of Arts and Sciences and a Student Sustainability Grant through the Sustainability Institute at Ohio State

Fueled by this funding Mank seeks to better understand the issue of inequitable outdoor play opportunities for underrepresented adolescent girls living in Columbus using a critical feminist lens. Having spent several years studying the relationship between youth and the built environment, Mank’s present work is inspired by her observations of fewer young people visiting public spaces including those for play. 

 “When we talk about outdoor play, often we reflect on our childhood memories of playing on the playground, not realizing play is critical for well-being across the lifespan,” Mank Lily Mankremarked. “For teenagers, play promotes social bonding, self-esteem and emotional processing. Where outdoor play opportunities for teens do exist, these spaces are typically designed for boys without disabilities and Western sports.”  

Beyond the health benefits of play, Mank notes that the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child has “affirmed all children have both the right to play and the right to participate in decision making on matters that affect their lives.”  

Through her research, Mank found adolescent’s perspectives regarding environmental policy and outdoor play have often been excluded and notes, “several recent planning projects in the City of Columbus did not seek meaningful input from children or adolescents.”  

Her project entitled, “From Exclusion to Empowerment: Co-Creating Outdoor Play for Teenage Girls as a Catalyst for Social Sustainability in Columbus, Ohio” seeks to rectify these inequities by engaging underrepresented teen girls from Columbus in co-design workshops to explore their lived experiences and vision of equitable outdoor play.  

“This funding allows me to create a research project that positions teenage girls as co-researchers –amplifying their voices and agency in communicating their outdoor play and advocacy visions," — Lily Mank

Workshop activities will include journey mapping, focus groups, and prototyping and will culminate in a participant led community showcase to share their visions. 

Mank reaffirms the importance of her work by concluding that “when all children and adolescents have access to equitable outdoor play, their entire community benefits.”  


Lily Mank