First Advisor

Amy Coplen

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Sociology and University Honors




Children -- Oregon -- Portland -- Attitudes -- Case studies, Public spaces, Urban community development




This paper explores how children ages 5 – 12 years old use, see, and value public space within the context of a fast-growing and rapidly gentrifying neighborhood in Portland, Oregon (USA). Using participatory action research and building upon Alison Clark’s groundbreaking Mosaic Approach, this research aims to evaluate and amplify children’s voices and opinions about their neighborhood. Drawing on children’s artwork, photographs, and focus group interviews, this project assesses how children define "the neighborhood," how children participate in and make their own communities, and how children place value on public spaces. I argue that children’s socio-spatial understanding of public space demonstrates complex social awareness, particularly when it comes to creating equitable communities. This research supports Chawla and Malone's (2003) conclusion that by integrating children’s lived experiences and valid concerns, neighborhoods and communities can become safer, healthier, and more socially equitable. I argue that understanding and being responsive to the wants and needs of children when designing urban public spaces, particularly in rapidly changing cities such as Portland, can lead to desirable social outcomes, and describe a novel research methodology that can be used to achieve such an understanding.


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