Children’s Physical Activity While Gardening: Development of a Valid and Reliable Direct Observation Tool

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
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Gardens are a promising intervention to promote physical activity (PA) and foster health. However, because of the unique characteristics of gardening, no extant tool can capture PA, postures, and motions that take place in a garden.


The Physical Activity Research and Assessment tool for Garden Observation (PARAGON) was developed to assess children’s PA levels, tasks, postures, and motions, associations, and interactions while gardening. PARAGON uses momentary time sampling in which a trained observer watches a focal child for 15 seconds and then records behavior for 15 seconds. Sixty-five children (38 girls, 27 boys) at 4 elementary schools in New York State were observed over 8 days. During the observation, children simultaneously wore Actigraph GT3X+ accelerometers.


The overall interrater reliability was 88% agreement, and Ebel was .97. Percent agreement values for activity level (93%), garden tasks (93%), motions (80%), associations (95%), and interactions (91%) also met acceptable criteria. Validity was established by previously validated PA codes and by expected convergent validity with accelerometry.


PARAGON is a valid and reliable observation tool for assessing children’s PA in the context of gardening.

Myers ( and Wells are with the Dept of Design and Environmental Analysis, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.

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