College of Design

Spurred by the tripling of overweight children in the past 20 years, Professor Robin Moore and Dr. Nilda Cosco in the College of Design have been studying the impact of physical environments on child health and development. Moore and Cosco’s Natural Learning Initiative (NLI) is on the leading edge of creating outdoor environments that support the healthy growth of children and reducing some of the biggest risks they face—obesity, hypertension, and diabetes. Promoting the importance of daily experience in the natural environment for all children through environmental design, action research, education, and dissemination, the program’s researchers, staff, and graduate students work with child-care centers, schools, museums, zoos, and botanical gardens to create outdoor spaces that allow children to take safe risks while testing their emerging abilities. The NLI research program has grown rapidly with grant support. “We don’t have much time,” says Moore. “We have a window of one or two generations to turn things around.” We have to develop a dramatically different way of educating children about engaging with their environment and engaging with each other. We have to really think about the daily life of children, and work to create environments that support their healthy growth.” Grants from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation underwrite research to further the NLI’s work.

College Awards 10-Year Comparison 1998-2007


Robin Moore and Dr. Nilda Cosco