Malcolm Little Successfully Defends His MSc Thesis

The HEAL would like to congratulate Malcolm Little who successfully defended his thesis under the supervision of Dr. Jason Gilliland in 2020.

Spatial Temporal Environment and Activity Monitoring

Malcolm Little successfully defended his MSc thesis titled A Novel Spatiotemporal Examination of Children’s Accessibility, Exposure, and Engagement to Parks and Recreation Spaces in Middlesex-London, Ontario. Malcolm completed his Master of Science in Geography under the supervision of Dr. Jason Gilliland. During his studies, Malcolm examined data collected from STEAM, a mixed-methods observational project conducted throughout southwestern Ontario. From the data, Malcolm investigated spatial, demographic, and socioeconomic factors related to children’s proximity and objective exposures to an array of parks and recreation spaces. The examination drilled down into statistical and geospatial variables and uncovered which were associated with frequency and time spent in the array of parks and recreation spaces.

Malcolm’s thesis delved into aspects of how children are spending more free time indoors, inactive, and not engaged in recreation activities. These activities are supported by parks and recreation facilities, which can promote physical, mental, and social well-being among children. Previous research struggled to accurately measure how often children are engaged in these places, and what level of influence social and economic aspects of children’s households have on their use of the places.

In essence, the thesis compared methods that measure children’s use of parks and recreation facilities and uncovered traits of children associated with use. Together with geographic data containing locations and types of parks and recreation facilities of southwest Ontario, this thesis incorporated both household survey and GPS data from volunteers recruited from schools throughout southwest Ontario, aged 9-14 years.

Alongside daily GPS tracks, volunteer’s home locations were used to uncover what places were close to children, what places they went to, and how much free time they spent in them. This approach revealed a more accurate way to measure which parks and recreation facilities are accessible from children’s homes, how much free time children spend in them, and which social and economic aspects of children’s lives relate to their frequency and duration of exposure to them. Ultimately, the thesis provides evidence that can be marshalled to improve accuracy of geography research involving children, and to improve parks and recreation policies seeking to provide better accessibility and use.

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