US Play Coalition Announces Inaugural Fran P. Mainella Play Conference Scholarship Winners

The U.S. Play Coalition is proud to announce the recipients of its inaugural Fran P. Mainella Play Conference Scholarship. This brand new scholarship program is named for our founder Fran P. Mainella, the first woman to serve as Director of the US National Park Service and one of America’s leading play advocates.  The scholarship was established to honor her vision, passion, leadership and playful spirit that founded and guided our organization in its first decade.  It will be awarded annually to new professionals, young professionals, and new-to-play professionals that could not otherwise attend the conference.

Meet the Inaugural Recipients of the Fran P. Mainella Play Conference Scholarship for the 2020 ONLINE Conference on the Value of Play:

Christine Alexander is executive assistant of Let’s Play America in Takoma Park, MD.  She believes that play is “a distinctly human experience, a happening that we can all understand and share regardless of background, age, ability, or point of entry.”  Christine believes strongly that play is NOT just for children.  “Despite all that we know about the value of play in human development, when faced with the observation and potential for judgment from our peers, adults will forego child-led play-based learning in order to avoid the chaos of free play. This blatant devaluation of play is what drives me to advocate for accessible free play opportunities for all stages of human development.”

Jennifer Beasley is a mental health practitioner at Cochran Elementary School in Louisville, KY.  According to Jennifer, play is essential to her work.  “In my opinion, helping children regulate their emotions and solve problems is best done through play.”  Jennifer hopes to learn to advocate for children’s play in educational systems and in public policy as well as learn how to further collaboration between the field of art therapy and the diverse disciplines represented by the Play Conference.

Alicia Chiaravalli is an environmental consultant and freelance designer from the Detroit area.  She is also continuing her education in a Design for Play program within Industrial Design.  As a student of play design, Alicia’s definition of play is constantly evolving.  “Play can take many forms, be deeply personal and often intra-personal, but the expression of play is irrefutably transcendent.” The Play Conference affords her the opportunity to connect with designers, artists, practitioners, historians, theorists and craftspeople who are similarly concerned with how play can contribute to the public good.

Tia Reid is from Stone Mountain, Georgia, where she is program director of At the Table Community Development Inc.  She is currently working on a project to intentionally integrate student-led play opportunities into the classroom of the Title One schools in her surrounding communities. As a former PreK teacher, Tia knows the value of play in the classroom, but in elementary schools she often faces feedback that questioned the challenge and rigor or lessons infused with meaningful play.  For Tia, the Play Conference provides the research and resources she needs “to educate and encourage my colleagues in the fight toward educational equity…I hope to learn valuable strategies for influencing challenging learning environments that fail to see the value of play.”

Lauren Willis is director of the Preschool at Holly Springs Center, a community effort to bring a quality play-based preschool program to rural Pickens County, South Carolina. “We know that play is valuable, because we see the benefits everyday, but we’d love to learn the Hows and Whys. I’m eager to learn more ways to help my staff develop and implement new ways to bring play to our students, and I feel that the PLAY Conference is an amazing opportunity to do this.”


The Conference on the VALUE of Play
The Play Conference, as it is commonly known, is an annual educational conference presented by the US Play Coalition. The latest research and practices in the field of play are presented at the conference, which brings together play researchers, park and recreation professionals, educators, health scientists, architects, landscape architects, designers, planners, business and community leaders, psychologists, physicians and parents from across the U.S. and beyond. The three day event has been moved ONLINE for 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  It is our first-ever online Play Conference!

Join the 2020 Online Conference on the Value of Play through December 15.

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