2021 Youth Development Practitioner Award Application Open Through Noon on March 26

The US Play Coalition is pleased to partner with Clemson University’s Youth Learning Institute for their annual Youth Development Practitioner Award.  The purpose of this award is to recognize outstanding performance in the creation and implementation of youth development programs or services. The YLI award winner will be honored during the 2021 VIRTUAL Conference on the Value of Play.

According to Stephen Lance, Executive Director of Youth Learning Institute, “There are many deserving practitioners across the nation and our goal is to bring recognition to this field of service.”

The 2020 YLI Youth Development Practitioner Award recipient is Jessica Hentoff, artistic/executive director of Circus Harmony in St. Louis. Jessica has been teaching and performing circus arts for over 40 years, using circus arts to motivate social change. It is both an arts education and a youth development organization. They believe that circus teaches the art of life- while children are learning circus arts, they are also learning life skills like focus, persistence, teamwork.

Jessica’s remarkable vision and use of circus arts to build character and community has brought about ground-breaking and bridge-building programs such as Circus Salaam Shalom, which brought together Jewish and Muslim children, Far East Meets Midwest, which combined Asian and Midwestern arts and artists and Peace Through Pyramids, which has brought together young people from around the world. These trademarks of Circus Harmony are the embodiment of the organization’s mission to help children “defy gravity, soar with confidence, and leap over social barriers, all at the same time.”


Nominations are now being accepted for the 2021 Youth Development Practitioner Award

The 2021 YLI Youth Development Practitioner Award winner will receive a physical award, social media coverage and free full conference registration for the 2021 VIRTUAL Conference on the Value of Play*. Given that we are virtual this year, our 2021 Award Winner will ALSO receive free conference registration for our in-person 2022 Play Conference! (Travel, lodging and other fees not included.)

*Note that registration fees will be refunded if the winner is already registered.

Deadline for 2021 YLI Youth Development Practitioner Award nominations is 12:00pm (noon) EST on March 26.


2021 Youth Development Practitioner Award Application Process

Purpose:
To recognize outstanding performance in the creation and implementation of youth development programs or services.

Eligibility:
Must have operated a youth development program or service within the United States for at least 10 or more years.

Evaluation Criteria:
Applicants should show evidence of as many of met criteria in their submitted statement.

  • Accomplishments serve as an example for other youth serving programs.
  • Program/service demonstrates best practices and a nurturing culture that supports inclusivity and human resilience.
  • Outreach efforts promote youth development programs and encourage support and participation from the community at-large.
  • Equips young people to lead and serve, through direct work with youth and by training other practitioners.
  • Demonstrates positive impact on lives of young people and leads by example.
  • Demonstrates high level of leadership, professionalism and integrity in the field of youth development.
  • Strengthens the field of youth work by providing quality training opportunities for youth workers to maximize their investment in young people.
  • Focuses on attempts to improve the quality of youth services by providing training standards and improving program function.
  • Shares best practices with other youth practitioners or serves as a liaison in the community to create a network of participation and sharing of ideas/knowledge.
  • Program/service demonstrates exceptional commitment to public service and/or educational leadership.

Deadline for 2021 nominations is 12:00pm (noon) EST on March 26.  If you have any questions, please contact contact Melanie Hammack at hammack@clemson.edu.


Harrison Pinckney Joins the
US Play Coalition Steering Committee

We are pleased to announce that Harrison P Pinckney, IV, PhD, recently joined the US Play Coalition Steering Committee.  Our steering committee consists of 21 leaders from across industry, education and health, all committed to its mission to promote the value of play throughout life. Steering committee members contribute their expertise and insights for the current and future work of the US Play Coalition.

Harrison Pinckney loves play. Play consumes much of his time as he is always engaged in fun activities with his three sons and wife. Whether it is hikes on a sunny day, building a cardboard city on a rainy day, or making up pretend words before bedtime, play defines much of his life.

When he’s away from his family, Dr. Pinckney devotes his professional time to examining how to create opportunities for Black youth to experience the freedom and wonderment that defines play. He accomplishes this through his role as an Assistant Professor at Clemson University in the Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management department.

Dr. Pinckney is already a very active contributor to the Play Coalition, serving on our Play Research Team to provide expertise as needed and headlining our Play Conference and other partner events, most notably the groundbreaking 2018 keynote on the implications of race on play for youth of color.”

US Play Coalition Executive Director Stephanie Garst said she is thrilled to welcome Dr. Pinckney to the committee:

“I credit Harrison for inspiring us to use our educational platform to begin having the very real and difficult conversations about the implications of race on play for youth of color.  His scholarship and publications provide powerful context of the realities facing youth of color with practical frameworks to help advance the discussion on race, recreation, and youth development.  He is truly part of the new generation of play advocates.  I know that we benefit greatly from his voice and his expertise on our steering committee.”

According to Dr. Pinckney, “Play is essential to learning about the world around us and exploring new possibilities. Being a part of a team that makes play a priority in the lives of others is a rare treat, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to help in that endeavor.”


The U.S. Play Coalition
Founded in 2009, the U.S. Play Coalition is an international network of individuals and organizations that promote the value of play throughout life. The coalition is housed in Clemson University’s Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management department, part of the College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences.  Our membership comes from a cross-section of industries and professions – play researchers, educators, park and recreation professionals, health scientists, architects, landscape architects, designers, planners, business and community leaders, psychologists, physicians, parents and more.  Learn more at usplaycoalition.org


US Play Coalition Announces 2020 Award Winners

The U.S. Play Coalition is proud to announce the 2020 recipients of its annual awards program, recognizing outstanding play research and youth practitioners.

First awarded in 2017, our awards program honors exceptional play researchers that have made significant contributions to the knowledge of play and practitioners that help further play in their communities and beyond.

 

2020 Joe L. Frost Award for Distinguished Research Winner – Stuart Brown, MD
The US Play Coalition recognizes a play researcher each year for exceptional research in the field of play.  The award honors its namesake, Joe L. Frost, the contemporary father of play advocacy. Frost was influential in the creation of the U.S. Play Coalition, serving as a steering committee member since the organization’s beginning in 2009.

Trained in general and internal medicine, psychiatry and clinical research, Dr. Stuart Brown first recognized the importance of play by discovering its absence in the life stories of murders and felony drunken drivers. He is founder and president of the National Institute for Play. Dr. Brown’s book: Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul has been translated into twelve languages.

Dr. Brown’s years of clinical practice and review of over 6000 personal play histories affirmed the importance and need for healthy play throughout the human life cycle.

His independent scholarship and exploration of the evolution and neuroscience of human and animal play have led to the establishment of the National Institute for Play. The mission of the National Institute for Play (NIFP) is to bring the unrealized knowledge, practices and benefits of play into public life.

Dr. Brown co-teaches “From Play to Innovation” at the Hasso Plattner School of Design at Stanford University, and is the “Key Strategist” for the Nevada Medical Center’s Global Play Science Institute.  He continues to produce regular creative scholarly contributions and enjoys other international corporate and academic consulting on play and its many contributions through their engagement with it, as it enhances overall human well-being.  As the information base about play grows, it is evident that play is a public health necessity.  Our species, Brown says, “is built for play, and built by play.”

 

2020 Youth Learning Institute’s Youth Development Practitioner Award Winner – Jessica Hentoff
Jessica Hentoff was recognized by the U.S. Play Coalition and Clemson University’s Youth Learning Institute for outstanding performance in the creation and implementation of youth development programs or services.

Jessica Hentoff is artistic/executive director of Circus Harmony in St. Louis. Jessica has been teaching and performing circus arts for over 40 years, using circus arts to motivate social change. It is both an arts education and a youth development organization. They believe that circus teaches the art of life- while children are learning circus arts, they are also learning life skills like focus, persistence, teamwork.

Since its inception in 2001, Circus Harmony has gone from ten students to over 1300 students and from presenting 40 shows a year to over 500 shows a year. They have developed youth circus troupes which consist of Jewish, Christian, Caucasian, Hispanic, African American and Asian children from inner city and suburban areas throughout St. Louis. In 2007, they started their first Peace Through Pyramids partnership with the Galilee Circus— a Jewish/Arab youth circus from Israel! In 2015, they brought their Peace Through Pyramids program to Ferguson and have now expanded to five other communities and Puerto Rico!

Circus Harmony serves as a model social circus for programs around the world. They were part of a national study by the Weikart Center that found their impact on the development of social and emotional skills exemplary. They believe this is due to the powerful role peer mentoring plays in their program.

Jessica had been named both St. Louis Arts Innovator of the Year and Outstanding Arts Educator of the Year. She was honored to be the first person to receive the American Youth Circus Organization/ American Circus Educators’ Excellence in Circus Education Award. In 2019, Circus Harmony was the recipient of the Missouri Arts Award for Arts Education.


Founded in 2009, the U.S. Play Coalition is an international network of individuals and organizations that promote the value of play throughout life. The coalition is housed in Clemson University’s Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management department, part of the College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences.  Our membership comes from a cross-section of industries and professions – play researchers, educators, park and recreation professionals, health scientists, architects, landscape architects, designers, planners, business and community leaders, psychologists, physicians, parents and more.  Learn more at usplaycoalition.org


US Play Coalition Announces 2020 YLI’s Youth Development Practitioner Award Winner

The U.S. Play Coalition and Clemson University’s Youth Learning Institute are proud to announce the 2020  Youth Development Practitioner Award Winner:

Jessica Hentoff, Artistic & Executive Director of Circus Harmony in St. Louis, Missouri.

First awarded in 2017, the Youth Learning Institute’s Youth Development Practitioner Award recognizes outstanding performance in the creation and implementation of youth development programs or services.  The evaluation criteria is quite extensive and detailed below.  “There are many deserving practitioners across the nation, and our goal is to bring recognition to this field of service,” said Stephen Lance, executive director of the Youth Learning Institute.

MEET JESSICA HENTOFF:

Jessica Hentoff is artistic/executive director of Circus Harmony in St. Louis. Jessica has been teaching and performing circus arts for over 40 years, using circus arts to motivate social change. It is both an arts education and a youth development organization. They believe that circus teaches the art of life- while children are learning circus arts, they are also learning life skills like focus, persistence, teamwork.

Jessica’s remarkable vision and use of circus arts to build character and community has brought about ground-breaking and bridge-building programs such as Circus Salaam Shalom, which brought together Jewish and Muslim children, Far East Meets Midwest, which combined Asian and Midwestern arts and artists and Peace Through Pyramids, which has brought together young people from around the world. These trademarks of Circus Harmony are the embodiment of the organization’s mission to help children “defy gravity, soar with confidence, and leap over social barriers, all at the same time.”

Circus Harmony serves as a model social circus for programs around the world. They were part of a national study by the Weikart Center that found their impact on the development of social and emotional skills exemplary. They believe this is due to the powerful role peer mentoring plays in their program.

Jessica had been named both St. Louis Arts Innovator of the Year and Outstanding Arts Educator of the Year. She was honored to be the first person to receive the American Youth Circus Organization/ American Circus Educators’ Excellence in Circus Education Award. In 2019, Circus Harmony was the recipient of the Missouri Arts Award for Arts Education.


First awarded in 2017, the Youth Development Practitioner Award recognizes outstanding performance in the creation and implementation of youth development programs or services.

Evaluation Criteria includes:

  • Accomplishments serve as an example for other youth serving programs.
  • Program/service demonstrates best practices and a nurturing culture that supports inclusivity and human resilience.
  • Outreach efforts promote youth development programs and encourage support and participation from the community at-large.
  • Equips young people to lead and serve, through direct work with youth and by training other practitioners.
  • Demonstrates positive impact on lives of young people and leads by example.
  • Demonstrates high level of leadership, professionalism and integrity in the field of youth development.
  • Strengthens the field of youth work by providing quality training opportunities for youth workers to maximize their investment in young people.
  • Focuses on attempts to improve the quality of youth services by providing training standards and improving program function.
  • Shares best practices with other youth practitioners or serves as a liaison in the community to create a network of participation and sharing of ideas/knowledge.
  • Program/service demonstrates exceptional commitment to public service and/or educational leadership.

Founded in 2009, the U.S. Play Coalition is an international network of individuals and organizations that promote the value of play throughout life. The coalition is housed in Clemson University’s Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management department, part of the College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences.  Our membership comes from a cross-section of industries and professions – play researchers, educators, park and recreation professionals, health scientists, architects, landscape architects, designers, planners, business and community leaders, psychologists, physicians, parents and more.  Learn more at usplaycoalition.org


The ABCs of the 2021 Virtual Play Conference Educational Sessions and Research Symposium

The full detailed schedule is coming soon…but until then, below is an alphabetical list of the MORE THAN 60 recorded Educational Sessions and Research Symposium Sessions that will be core content for the 2021 VIRTUAL Conference on the Value of Play: PLAY IS SURVIVAL, available online from April 1 through June 30.

As we prepare for our second online Play Conference, there is a renewed intensity to connect play advocates, educate our national and global community, support play research and publications, and truly fulfill our mission to promote the VALUE of play throughout life. We continue to incorporate phenomenal speakers and resources with unique opportunities for learning through play!

       

 

  • A Play-Based Literacy Program for The Professional Development of Reception Year Teachers
  • A Prescription for Play in Education
  • Access for All: Providing Equitable Hands-On Learning Experiences in A Digital World
  • All Ages, All Abilities, All the Time
  • Beyond Candyland: Learning Through Making Board Games
  • Big Body Play Powers A Child’s Learning Trajectory
  • Capture the Flag: How Traditionally Marginalized Residents Reclaim Urban Space Through Play
  • Circus Is an International Language
  • Crazy Games Workshop Explores Using Low Cost Materials Outside Normal Usage to Create Fun Learning
  • Designing Everyday Spaces for Children
  • Designing Hybrid Outdoor Play and Learning Spaces for All Ages
  • Eduspeak And Play: Surviving the Wolf at The Door While Keeping Play Alive & Well in Your Classroom
  • Equity and Play: Surviving and Thriving
  • Future of Play: Technology Integration
  • Healthy Communities, Parks and Splashpads
  • Hobby Horses—A Hobby, Sport or Pure Play? Feminine Debates on A Contemporary Plaything
  • Inclusive Playground Design:  A Case Study of Three New England Playgrounds
  • Intergenerational Play Within the Workplace: A Powerful Mechanism for Informal Learning
  • Legacy of Laughter; A Grandparent Playbook
  • Let’s Start With Play. Why Play in The Emergency Department Can Be Our Best Tool for Patients
  • Making Connections: People, Places, And Physical Activity
  • More to Say After Outdoor Play: Bookmaking and Storytelling with Children
  • No, They’re Not Too Old to Play. Bringing Loose Parts Play to South Florida Middle Schoolers.
  • Nonprofit, Let’s Play America, Hangs on During the Pandemic with Virtual Play Days & Handbooks
  • Paddle, Pivot, Pedal, Prance and Most of All…PLAY!
  • Parent LAB PLAY DAY Series
  • Parents’ Perceptions of Play Throughout the Pandemic and In the Social Justice Movement
  • Performative Play for The Project Based Learning Classroom
  • Play and Expressive Therapy Interventions for Enhancing Emotion Regulation
  • Play as Culturally Sustainable Family Engagement
  • Play Behavior of Children from an Isolated Area in Brazil: Body and Space as Cultural Expression
  • Play Frisco 2.0
  • Play Like Our World Depends on It: Using Playfulness to Engage Others in The Climate Emergency
  • Play on The Go: Tips for Developing and Using Prop Boxes
  • Play Programming During the Pandemic…. What Can We Learn?
  • Play, Politics, & Policy: Building a State-Wide Movement for Recess
  • Playground Design for School Communities – Moving Towards a Better Way
  • Playing in a Pandemic: Lessons from Virtual and Traditional Instruction in Early Elementary School
  • Pretend Play as a Tool for Development During Virtual Learning of Young Children
  • Prototyping: Play Applied
  • Ready Player One: Harnessing the Power of Activity and Fun Using A Digital Medium
  • Recess and Play Before and During the Covid-19 Pandemic
  • Reconsidering Solitary Play: Understanding Self, Place, and Nature
  • Reducing the Negative Impacts of Trauma Through Outdoor Play
  • Removing Invisible Barriers: A Design Call to Action from Families of Those with Differing Abilities
  • Sacred Play: An Ancient Contribution to Contemporary Play Theory
  • Shifting Play from Survival to Thrivival
  • Social Togetherness in a Time of Social Distancing
  • Soulful Play
  • Sustainability of Self
  • Teaching Off Trail
  • The Benefits and Uses of Collaborative Competition in the Classroom
  • The Effect of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Young Children’s Play
  • The Effects of a Multi Recess Intervention on Body Composition in Elementary School Children
  • The Importance of Failure in Play
  • The Push Play Project
  • The Rubber Shark Principle: How Play Is Bridging Our Relationship with Disability Inclusion
  • The Value of Adult Play Is All in the Design
  • Those Summer Days: Exploring Extreme Heat’s Impact on Children’s Outdoor Play and Physical Activity
  • Toy Activism Through Teddybears: Promoting Playful Resilience and Ludounity In Pandemic Times
  • Ways to Play the Virtual Way
  • Wordplay: How Silly Jokes, Nonsense Rhymes, and Secret Languages Thrive in Unstructured Play

 

 

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 2021 Virtual Conference on the Value of Play: PLAY IS SURVIVAL includes keynote and featured speakers, round tables on critical issues and trends, research symposium for academics, educational sessions for practitioners, action and research grant opportunities, PLAYtalks and PLAYinstitutes, networking, EPIC play breaks and more.


US Play Coalition Announces 2020/2021 Action & Research Grant Winners

The U.S. Play Coalition is proud to announce the 2020/2021 recipients of its annual grants program, recognizing exceptional researchers, practitioners and play projects.

Play is important for people of all ages to be physically active, mentally alert, creative, and socially connected. Over the past decade, the US Play Coalition has been proud to have awarded $64,000 in action and research grants to a variety of projects. These investments have helped foster the continued growth of both a body of knowledge and community-focused play experiences that benefit thousands of people of all ages and abilities.

2020/2021 Action Grant Winners

Three $1,000 action grants are providing needed funding for projects that are facilitating play in specific communities and across the country.

Simone Chin, Ph.D., and Susan Caruso of Sunflower Creative Arts received the inaugural Joan Almon Legacy Action Grant, sponsored by Alliance for Childhood.  The action grant funds will support their project “No, They’re Not Too Old to Play! Bringing Loose Parts Play to South Florida Middle Schoolers.”  It is a Build & Play program for adolescents (ages 11-14) from South Florida’s economically challenged, underserved or vulnerable African American, Caribbean- American, and Hispanic population. Build & Play invites children to create, invent and build using their imagination and loose parts.

Ariana Brazier, CEO and co-founder of ATL Parent Like a Boss in Atlanta, was awarded an Action Grant for a Parent Lab PLAY DAY Series that aims to actively engage Black families and families of color, particularly from poor and low-income communities as well as teachers, school administrators and any individuals and/or groups who serve in their focus community.   The Parent LAB PLAY DAY Series engages participants in interactive games designed to connect the active body to brain development, and thus enhance cognitive learning experiences.  They use physically interactive games in and through our PLAY DAY Series to celebrate and promote opportunities for Black cultural expression.

Angela Kyle, Co-Founder/ Executive Director of PlayBuild in New Orleans, was awarded an Action Grant for her initiative “Super-Powering Play:  Mobilizing PlayBuild’s Volunteer Community Board as Play Ambassadors.”  The PlayBuild Community Board is a grass-roots volunteer network of committed and passionate community residents who manage the day-to-day operations and programmatic activities of the organization.  Established in the summer of 2019 the Community Board is the connective tissue between the organization and the Central City neighborhood where we work.   The Community Board members have no formal training in child development, education, or design disciplines, however, they have shown enthusiasm and willingness to acquire the skills and training that will make them more effective brand ambassadors for PlayBuild’s work.

2020/2021 Research Seed Grant Award Winner

William Massey, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at Oregon State University, received this year’s $3,000 Research Seed Grant Award for his project, “The recess initiative: A participatory action approach to increasing physical activity and self-regulation through recess in elementary schools.”

Dr. Massey’s line of research focuses on the intersection of play, physical activity, and child development. His current line of research is dedicated to understanding how recess quality impacts healthy development in elementary school-aged children.

Working through the OSU Psychosocial PhysicaL ActivitY (2PLAY) Lab, Massey says the overall purpose of the proposed study is to test the feasibility of a multi-component recess intervention to increase physical activity and self-regulation in elementary school children. In considering conditions in which recess might promote positive child-level outcomes, they are also examining the quality of the recess environment.


Founded in 2009, the U.S. Play Coalition is an international network of individuals and organizations that promote the value of play throughout life. The coalition is housed in Clemson University’s Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management department, part of the College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences.  Our membership comes from a cross-section of industries and professions – play researchers, educators, park and recreation professionals, health scientists, architects, landscape architects, designers, planners, business and community leaders, psychologists, physicians, parents and more.  Learn more at usplaycoalition.org


“PLAY and Early Childhood” ONLINE Institute Available Through 12/30

The US Play Coalition and the Institute for Child Success are thrilled to present the recordings and materials from the “PLAY and Early Childhood” ONLINE Institute, a unique early childhood professional development program presented live on Zoom on October 3, 2020.

AVAILABLE ONLY THROUGH DECEMBER 30, 2020.

Presentations included with this 6-hour institute:

Workshop 1 – “Voices for Play: Advocating for Active Play”
Amity Buckner, M. Ed., Director, Pickens County Office of First Steps

Workshop 2 – “Integrating Play and STEAM Teaching into Early Childhood Classrooms”
Amanda Bennett, M.Ed., ABD, Lecturer in Child Development, College of Education, Clemson University

Workshop 3 – “Strategies for Supporting Preschool Children Who Have Experienced Trauma”
Jill C. Shelnut, Ph.D., Lecturer in Early Childhood Education, Clemson University
Jennifer Geddes Hall, Ph.D., LPC, ACS, RPT, Assistant Clinical Professor, College of Education, Clemson University

Workshop 4 – “Play and the Reggio Emilia Approach”
Dee Stegelin, Ph.D., Professor Emerita, Clemson University & Senior Fellow, Institute for Child Success

Workshop 5 – “Children Think Better on Their Feet Than in Their Seat”
Mary Mackenzie, M.Ed., United Kingdom, Senior Fellow, Institute for Child Success

Workshop 6 – “Playing with Vivian Paley’s Storytelling and Story Acting Approach”
Debora Wisneski, Ph.D., Associate Professor, University of Omaha


Registration Fee for the PLAY and Early Childhood ONLINE Institute

$30.00/person
$125 for groups of 5-10 from the same school or center*
*Please email us to get this rate or inquire about rates for groups larger than 10.


VIDEO: Panel Discusses Engaging State Policymakers with Outdoor Play

The Youth Outdoor Policy Playbook is a joint effort of the Children and Nature Network, the Meridian Institute, National Caucus of Environmental Legislators, Outdoor Alliance for Kids and North American Association of Environmental Education.

As part of the 2020 Online Conference on the Value of Play, representatives of each organization (detailed below) discussed the Youth Outdoor Policy Playbook, a tool to empower grassroots and grasstops leaders and educate state legislators on the value of outdoor engagement and play – with an aim to work together to pass legislation to give more youth and families more outdoor opportunities.

Panelists include:

Watch the full video of the panel presentation recorded live on Zoom, April 24, 2020: “Engaging State Policymakers with Outdoor Play: Youth Outdoor Policy Playbook”
Want to see more great online professional development content like this?!
Join the 2020 Online Conference on the Value of Play through December 15.
 

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! Learn more at usplaycoalition.org/playconference2020


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.

Learn more at usplaycoalition.org/playconference2020


VIDEO: A Tale of Two School Superintendents – A Conversation with Michael Hynes & Danny Merck

Keynote speaker Michael Hynes treated a small group of school administrators and leaders to witness an honest conversation with fellow school superintendent Danny Merck.  While Dr. Hynes oversees an urban New York school district of close to 6,000 students, Dr. Merck is superintendent in rural Pickens County, South Carolina, serving more than 16,000 students.

School Administrators Round Table:
A Conversation with Michael Hynes & Danny Merck

Both passionate play and recess advocates influenced by their respective experiences in Finland, these two superintendents pulled back the curtain on the challenges they are grappling with to ensure our children will still have play and recess when they return to school. They talked about their philosophies and discuss nuts and bolts about what they HOPE can happen while being realistic with their plans and considerations. It was an organic dialogue with aimed to “workshop ideas” that will help other school administrators and leaders struggling with the pressures of the pandemic slide and the desire to support the basic needs of our children.

Danny Merck, Ed. D., has 28 years of experience as an educator in South Carolina public schools. He is a former member of the South Carolina Education Oversight Committee and is in his fifth year as superintendent of the School District of Pickens County.  Dr. Merck returned from Finland in Fall 2018 and began implementing increased play and recess opportunities in several elementary schools in the district with impressive results in the classroom.  Wanting to give that professional experience to as many as he could in his district, Dr. Merck then hosted 14 Finnish educators from the Oulu University Teacher Training School, who offered professional learning to more than 700 teachers and administrators in his district over the course of 9 days.

Michael Hynes, Ed. D., is an educator, scholar, and thought leader. As a superintendent of public schools on Long Island, New York, it is his mission to spread the importance of a holistic approach to educating children. Dr. Hynes is also an Associate Professor at Long Island University/Post and Stony Brook University, teaching courses in School Law, Curriculum and Instruction and School Leadership and has published numerous articles and podcasts on school leadership and his belief in public education.  His article “Kids Need Play and Recess: Their Mental Health Depends on It” was #1 for 2018 in EDUCATION WEEK. Dr. Hynes is author of the newly released best-selling book “Staying Grounded: 12 Principles to Transform School Leader Effectiveness.”

Below is the full video of the conversation, recorded live on Zoom, June 18, 2020 – “School Administrators Round Table: A Conversation with Michael Hynes & Danny Merck.”

Please note that this conversation occurred before either superintendent knew what the plan for the new school year would be in their districts.  

 

Want to see more great online professional development content like this?!
Join the 2020 Online Conference on the Value of Play through December 15.
 

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!  Learn more at usplaycoalition.org/playconference2020