Janet Loebach
Janet Loebach
The Evalyn Edwards Milman Assistant Professor in Child Development
Human Centered Design

MVR 2415



Janet Loebach is the Evalyn Edwards Milman Assistant Professor in Child Development in the Department of Human Centered Design, and the Director of the DECA Lab (Design Environments with|for Children & Adolescents).  Dr. Loebach's academic, professional practice and advocacy efforts focus primarily on three areas: (1) the sustainable development of inclusive and child/youth-friendly environments and communities; (2) examining the impacts of children's everyday built and natural environments on their play and learning behaviors, mobility, and healthy development; and (3) the assessment and refinement of participatory approaches and research tools for examining the environments of young people, and effectively integrating youth into community research, design and planning initiatives.  This work includes environment-behavior analyses at the community- and regional-level, as well as in individual settings such as parks, trails, schools, care facilities, community hubs, and play spaces.  Much of her recent work has focused on outdoor and/or neighborhood-based play and mobility behaviors and their impacts, and the assessment of outdoor and natural play & recreation spaces. The impacts of nature and natural environments on child behaviors and health outcomes is also a key focus. Dr. Loebach's work often integrates child-led, arts-engaged and/or digitally-enhanced methods such as behavior mapping, qualitative GIS, GPS tracking, participatory photography and videography, child-led community tours, walkalong interviews, story maps, and place mapping. In addition to children and youth, Dr. Loebach is also interested in the design of supportive intergenerational spaces and age-friendly environments for older adults, as well as environmental settings for youth and older adults with physical and/or cognitive challenges, environmental sensitivities or neurodiversities.

Dr. Loebach received a Bachelor degree in Civil Engineering & Society from McMaster University (Canada), a Master of Environmental Design from the School of Architecture and Planning at Dalhousie University (Canada), and a PhD in Children's, Urban and Health Geographies from the Department of Geography at Western University (Canada).  She was awarded Post-Doctoral Fellowships at both the Young Lives Research Laboratory at the University of PEI, and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health's Institute for Mental Health Policy Research.  She is a registered Professional Engineer (Ontario) and the Principal Consultant for Thrive Design Consulting.  Dr. Loebach currently serves on the Board of Directors of the International Play Association (Canada), and as the Co-Chair of the Children, Youth & Environments Network of the Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA). She also sits on the Editorial Board of the journals: Children, Youth & Environments; PsyEcology; and Cities & Health. Dr. Loebach is also the lead editor on the 2020 Routledge Handbook of Designing Public Places for Young People: Processes, Practices and Policies for Youth Inclusion.

Student opportunities

Indication of whether or not this person is accepting new undergraduate and graduate students is shown by academic year below.

Graduate students

Availability by term
2022 - 2023 Available
2023 - 2024 Available

Undergraduate students

Availability by term
2023 - 2024 Available
2022 - 2023 Available
2022 - 2023 Available

DEA 3550: Research Methods in Human-Environment Relations

DEA 5700: Designing Age Friendly Environments

DEA 6200: Studies in Human Environment Relations

DEA 4010: Supervised / Independent Empirical Research

DEA 4020: Supervised Fieldwork

DEA 6010: Directed Readings

DEA 6020: Graduate (Supervised/Independent) Empirical Research

Edited Volumes

Loebach, J., Owens, P., Little, S. & Cox, A. (Eds.). (2020)  Handbook for designing public spaces for young people: Processes, practices and policies for youth inclusion

Refereed Journal Articles

Jaffe, J. & Loebach, J. (2023). Fostering youth-enabling environments: A participatory affordance capability framework for the development and use of youth-engaged environmental assessments. Youth & Society, published online ahead of press, 1-29.

Loebach, J. & Cox, A. (2022).  Playing in ‘The Backyard’:  Environmental features and conditions of a natural playspace which support diverse outdoor play activities among younger children. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health Special Issue: Outdoor play and learning for health, wellbeing and development in early childhood. doi.org/10.3390/ijerph191912661

Loebach, J., Meredith, G. & Rakow, D. (2022). Time outdoors in nature to improve staff well-being; Examining changes in behaviors and motivations among university staff in the use of natural outdoor environments since the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic. Frontiers in Psychology Special Issue: Mental health promotion during Covid-19: Applications from self-care resources, lifestyles and environments, 13: 869122. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2022.869122

Barankevich, R. & Loebach, J. (2022). Self-care and mental health among college students during the Covid-19 pandemic: Social and physical environment features of interactions which impact meaningfulness and mitigate loneliness. Frontiers in Psychology Special Issue: Mental health promotion during Covid-19: Applications from self-care resources, lifestyles and environments, 13: 879408. Doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2022.879408. 

Ramsden, R., Han, C., Mount, D., Loebach, J. Cox, A., Herrington, S., Bundy, A. Sandseter, E., Stone, M., Tremblay, M.S. & Brussoni, M. (2022). PROmoting Early Childhood Outside (PRO-ECO): an outdoor free play intervention for children aged 3 to 5 years in early childhood education centres - Study protocol for a pilot cluster randomised controlled trial. JMIR Research Protocols, 11(7), e38365. doi: 10.2196/38365.  (IF: 1.85; HI: 33)

Bishop, K., Corkery, L., Ashfar, N., Aminpour, F., Brussoni, M., Carroll, P., Derr, V., Dimoulias, K. Edwards, C., Flanders Cushing, D., Herrington, S., Johnson, J., Kreutz, A., Loebach, J., Owens, P.E., Tresize, B. & Witten, K. (2022). The Impacts of COVID-19 on children, youth and their environments in Canada, the USA, New Zealand and Australia. Children, Youth & Environments.

Loebach, J., Sanches, M., Jaffe, J., Elton-Marshall, T. (2021).  Paving the way for neighborhood play: Examining socio-environmental barriers to community-based outdoor play.  International Journal of Environmental Reearch & Public Health, 18, 3617. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18073617.

Loebach, J. & Cox, A. (2020). Tool for Observing Play Outdoors (TOPO): A new typology for capturing children's play behaviors in outdoor environments. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, Special Issue: The Environment and Children's Health, 17, 5611, doi:10.3390/ijerph17155611.

Loebach, J. & Tilleczek, K. (2019). Keyboard warriors? Visualising technology and well-being with, for and by Indigenous youth through digital stories. Visual Studies, published online November 25, 2019 ahead of print. doi:10.1080/1472586X.2019.1691050

Loebach, J. & Gilliland, J. (2019). Examining social and built environment factors influencing children’s independent use of their neighbourhoods and the experience of local settings as child-friendly. Journal of Planning Education and Research, published online March 5, 2019 ahead of print. doi:10.1177/0739456X19828444

Gilliland, J., Maltby, M., Xu, X., Luginaah, I., Loebach, J. & Shah, T. (2019). Is Active Travel a Breath of Fresh Air? Examining Children's Exposure to Air Pollution During the School Commute. Spatial and Spatio-temporal Epidemiology, 29, 51-57. doi:10.1016/j.sste.2019.02.004

Cox, A., Loebach, J. & Little, S. (2018). Understanding the Nature Play Milieu: Using Behavior Mapping to Investigate Children's Play in Outdoor and Nature Playspaces. Children, Youth and Environments Special Issue: Unleashing the Power of Play, 28(2), 232-261. doi:10.7721/chilyoutenvi.28.2.0232

McKendrick, J.H., Loebach, J. & Casey, T. (2018). Realizing Article 31 through General Comment 17: overcoming challenges and the quest for an optimum play environment. Children, Youth and Environments Special Issue: Unleashing the Power of Play, 28(2), 1-11. doi:10.7721/chilyoutenvi.28.2.0001

McKendrick, J.H., Loebach, J. & Casey, T. (2018). Reflections on the challenges understood to compromise optimum play environments. Children, Youth and Environments Special Issue: Unleashing the Power of Play, 28(2), 262-273. doi: 10.7721/chilyoutenvi.28.2.0262

Loebach, J. & Gilliland, J. (2016). Neighbourhood play on the endangered list: Examining patterns in children’s local activity and mobility using GPS monitoring and qualitative GIS. Children’s Geographies, 14 (5), 573-589. doi:10.1080/14733285.2016.1140126.

Tilleczek, K. & Loebach, J. (2015). Research goes to the cinema: The veracity of videography with, for and by youth. Research in Comparative & International Education (Special Issue: The Potential of Videography in Comparative Education), 10 (3), pp. 354-366. doi:10.1177/1745499915581084.

Loebach, J. & Gilliland, J. (2014). Free range kids? Examining socio-environmental factors influencing children’s use of their neighbourhood activity spaces. Environment & Behavior, 48 (3), 421-453. doi:10.1177/0013916514543177.

Gilliland, J., Rangel, C., Healy, M., Tucker, P., Loebach, J., Hess, P., He, M., Irwin, J., & Wilk, P. (2012). Linking childhood obesity to the built environment: a multi-level analysis of home and school neighbourhood factors associated with body mass index. Canadian Journal of Public Health, 103 (9), Supp 3, S15-S21. doi:10.1007/BF03403830

Gilliland, J., Maltby, M., Loebach, J., Xu, X., Mates, A. & Luginaah, I. (2011). Emerging methodologies for examining environmental influences on children’s exposure to air pollution. International Society for Environmental Epidemiology Abstracts, 2011 (1). doi:10.1289/isee.2011.01955

Loebach, J. & Gilliland, J. (2010). Child-Led Tours to Uncover Children's Perceptions and Use of Neighborhood Environments. Children, Youth & Environments, 20(1), 53-90. doi:10.7721/chilyoutenvi.20.1.0052

Book Chapters

Yantzi, N. & Loebach, J. (in press).Children's geographies: Playing with participatory methods.  In M.W. Rosenberg, S. Lovell & S.E. Coen (Eds.) Handbook of methodologies in human geography.  New York, NY: Routledge.

Loebach, J. (2020). ‘Green Direction’: Integrating youth into the design and building of public outdoor playspaces. In J. Loebach, A. Cox, S. Little & P. Eubanks Owens (Eds.) Designing public spaces for young people: Processes, practices and policies for youth inclusion. New York: Routledge.

Loebach, J., Cox, A. & Little, S. (2020). Behavior mapping to support the development of youth-inclusive public spaces. In J. Loebach, A. Cox, S. Little & P. Eubanks Owens (Eds.) Designing public spaces for young people: Processes, practices and policies for youth inclusion. New York: Routledge. 

Campbell, V., Tilleczek, K. & Loebach, J. (2019). Knowing Youth and Technology: Emerging Methods. In K. Tilleczek & V. Campbell (Eds.) Youth in the Digital Age: Paradox, Promise, Predicament. New York: Routledge.

Kreutz, A., Loebach, J. & Nakai Kidd, A. (2018). The Indigenous architecture of Early Learning Centres: International comparative case studies from Australia, Canada and New Zealand. In E. Grant, K. Greenlop, A.L. Reftiti & D.J. Glenn (Eds.) Handbook of Contemporary Indigenous Architecture. Singapore: Springer Nature.

Loebach, J. & Derr, V. (2018). Putting it together and taking action: Participatory Schoolyard Design (Case Study). In V. Derr, L. Chawla & M. Mintzer (Eds). Placemaking with Children and Youth: Participatory Practices for Planning Sustainable Communities. Oakland, CA: New Village Press.

Other Publications

Loebach, J., Meredith, G., Rakow, D., Shepley, M. & Farooquee, M. (2022). The impact of nature engagement on the health and well-being of staff at Cornell University: Reflections and experiences through COVID-19. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University

Elton-Marshall, T., Loebach, J., Wijesinga, R., Veselka, L. & Pradeep, B. (2018). Outdoor Play Among Students in the Thames Valley Board: Preliminary Findings. London, Ontario: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (Lay Report).

Loebach, J. (2016). Securing a future for early years in the Waterloo Region District School Board: The impact of outdoor playspace renovations on children’s play opportunities and behaviours. Toronto: Evergreen.

Loebach, J. (2015). The benefits and challenges of online or mobile interviewing with youth. Charlottetown, PEI: Young Lives Research Lab, University of Prince Edward Island. Available at katetilleczek.ca

Loebach, J. & Madigan, R. (2015). Collecting social media data for qualitative research. Charlottetown, PEI: Young Lives Research Lab, University of Prince Edward Island. Available at katetilleczek.ca

Loebach, J. (2013.) Children’s neighbourhood geographies: Examining children’s perception and use of their neighbourhood environments for healthy activity. London: University of Western Ontario. 

Loebach, J. (2011). The Magical Park of Aviacion: Lessons from a participatory design project with the children of Aviacion, Peru. PlayRights , Vol 11 (2). Available at http://ipaworld.org/category/play-resources/playrights-magazine/

Academic & Professional Memberships:

  • Design Research Society (2022 – present)
  • Cornell City & Regional Planning Graduate Field (2021 – present)
  • Cornell Landscape Architecture Graduate Field (2021 – present)
  • Cornell DEA Graduate Field (2020 – present)
  • Canadian Psychological Association – Environmental Psychology Section (2007 – present)
  • International Play Association (2007 – present)
  • Environmental Design Research Association (2002 – present)
  • Professional Engineers Ontario (1999 – present)

Academic & Professional Service:

  • International Play Association’s 2023 Triennial World Conference Academic & Professional Advisory Committee (2022 – present)
  • Association of Pacific Rim Universities CYE Working Group (2021 – Present)
  • Co-Chair, EDRA Children, Youth & Environments Network (2012 – present)
  • National Steering Committee on Play Space Design (Canada) (2009-present)
  • IPA Canada Board of Directors (2008 – present)
  • Editorial Board Member:
    • Children, Youth and Environments Journal (2019 - present)
    • PsyEcology: Bilingual Journal of Environmental Psychology (2020 - present)
    • Cities & Health Journal (2021-present)
    • Landscape & Urban Planning (2021-present

Engaged / Community Service:

    • Ithaca Nature for All [formerly Biophilic Ithaca] Steering Committee (Spring 2020 – present)
    • Age Friendly Tompkins Steering Committee (Fall 2020 – present)
    • Ithaca Youth Research Café Founder & Moderator (Fall 2019 – present)

Committee Member, Mann Library

PhD, Geography (Children’s Geographies; Health & Urban Geographies), Department of Geography, University of Western Ontario

Master, Environmental Design Studies (MEDS), School of Architecture & Planning, Dalhousie University

Bachelor, Civil Engineering & Society (B.Eng.Soc) , Faculty of Engineering / Engineering & Society Program, McMaster University

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