2018 Youth Development Practitioner Award Apps Now Open

The US Playli-large-logoy Coalition is pleased to partner with Clemson University’s Youth Learning Institute for their second 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 named at the 2018 Conference on the Value of Play in Clemson, SC.

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 inaugural award went to Dan Mathews, chief operating officer at Camp Twin Lakes, a Georgia-based organization that provides camp experiences for children with serious illnesses, disabilities and other life challenges.  According to his nomination, Dan is “a champion for all youth using play as the center of his outstanding leadership and tireless efforts in furthering development, access, and professionalism of the field of youth-development…He is an excellent standard bearer for the inaugural Youth Development Practitioner Award.”

Nominations are now being accepted for the 2018 Youth Development Practitioner Award.  Deadline for nominations is December 15, 2017. The winner of the 2018 Youth Development Practitioner Award will be notified in mid-January and recognized at the 2018 Conference on the Value of Play at Clemson University, April 8-11, 2018.  The winner will have conference fees paid, hotel accommodations and up to $500 in travel to attend the Play Conference.

2018 Youth Development Practitioner Award Application Process

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

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.

If you have any questions, please contact Melanie Bargar at 864-787-2893.

Nature Fix Author Florence Williams to Speak October 31

The US Play Coalition is proud to partner with the Clemson University Institute for Parks for a special presentation by author Florence Williams.

2017 George B. Hartzog, Jr. Lecture

“Does Nature Make Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative?”

Tuesday, October 31 @ 2:00pm
Brooks Center, Clemson University

This lecture is free and open to the public.  A book signing reception will follow the lecture.

Florence Williams is a contributing editor at Outside Magazine and a freelance writer for the New York Times, New York Times Magazine, National Geographic, The New York Review of Books, Slate, Mother Jones, High Country News, O-Oprah, W., Bicycling and numerous other publications.

A fellow at the Center for Humans and Nature and a visiting scholar at George Washington University, her work focuses on the environment, health and science.

Williams’ book The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes us Happier, Healthier and More Creative has been described as “an intrepid investigation into nature’s restorative benefits by a prize-winning author.”

For her Hartzog Lecture, Williams will discuss emerging science regarding the benefits of nature to human development and how it is instrumental to our physical and mental well-being. As our modern lives shift dramatically indoors, these ideas and her conclusions are more urgent than ever.

Florence Williams’ lecture is sponsored by the Clemson University Institute for Parks and the US Play Coalition. The Hartzog Lecture Series in Park and Conservation Area Management was developed to feature leading figures in the field of conservation.

Food Group Bingo

In honor of World Food Day – October 16, 2017

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, “World Food Day (WFD) was established by FAO’s Member Countries at the Organization’s 20th General Conference in November 1979. It has since been observed every year in more than 150 countries, raising awareness of the issues behind poverty and hunger.”
Source: http://www.fao.org/world-food-day/2017/about/en/

• Game card (like the one to the right)
• Grocery store ads and newspaper circulars
• Scissors
• Glue

To Play:
Search through grocery store circulars to find examples of Dairy, Fruit, Grains, Proteins, and Veggies. Cut out the example and paste it onto the card. The first person to fill the card wins.
• Note: NO repeats! So although you may come across several ads for apples, you may only use apples once.

Make it vegetarian! … and use the following food groups: Beans/Lentils, Fruit, Grains, Nuts/Seeds, and Veggies.

October #WePlayChat: “Play and Millennials”

Join us Thursday, October 26 at 12:00pm EST/ 11:00am CST as we welcome co-moderator Dr. Heather Von Bank from Minnesota State University-Mankato to our #WePlayChat on “Play and Millennials.

Dr. Heather Von Bank is an Associate Professor in the Department of Family Consumer Science at Minnesota State University-Mankato.  Her area of expertise is Child Development and Family Studies. Dr. Von Bank received her PhD. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Educational. She is currently the FCS Department Chairperson and also teaches Parenting Education, Lifespan Development, and The Role of Play in Child Development. In 2013 Dr. Von Bank, co-authored her first book, “The Power of Playful Learning: The Green Edition.” Feel free to connect with Heather on twitter prior to the chat @HeatherVonBank.

Here are the chat questions that will guide our dialogue:
  • What do we know about the millennial young adults today and their play history?
  • How does this play history differ across other generations?
  • How have education testing policies of the last 10-15 years affected young adult’s ideas about the value of play?
  • How do millennials’ play experiences affect their parenting practices? Lifestyle choices?

#WePlayChat is our monthly Twitter chat for anyone seeking to gain knowledge around the wide open field of play. Launched in 2016, our #WePlayChat participants come from 8 countries, spanning 4 continents – all tuning in to connect around PLAY.  This FREE professional learning opportunity is a great way to connect with fellow play enthusiasts, teachers and experts from across the globe.

We love sharing the voice of play on Twitter through our #WePlayChat.  We have our chats at different times on different days to get the most involvement across our membership.  You will not want to miss them! Tune in and to join in and contribute to the conversation around the value of play.

Playing From Scratch – ‘Ulu Maika

Source: ©2015. Joyce Hemphill, Laura Scheinholtz, and Heather Von Bank and adapted from The Power of Playful Learning.

‘Ulu maika is a game that was played by early Hawaiians. The aim of the game is to roll a disc between two narrowly placed goals a distance away. A 500 foot ‘ulu maika playing field can be found on the island of Moloka’i.

For more information check out the following websites:

2 plastic bottles filled with water.
Empty tape roll, empty ribbon spool

Before play begins, each player is given a spool to decorate with markers. A player can make up a design or research historical cultural ones.

Agree on a predetermined distance from goals; measure.

To Play:
Place the two bottles apart; approximately 4-6 inches wider than the width of the disc being rolled. From a designated distance, roll the disc so that it goes through the opening between the bottles. The first person to get five through wins. Note: The rolling distance can increase as the skill level increases. Also the space between the bottles can vary depending on skill level; starting wider with a novice and narrowing as the aim improves.

Chief Playmaker and Founder of The Life is Good Kids Foundation to Keynote the 2018 Play Conference

The US Play Coalition is thrilled to announce that Steve Gross will be the first keynote speaker for the 2018 Conference on the Value of Play: The Many Faces of Play, April 8-11, at Clemson University.

Steve Gross is the Founder and Chief Playmaker of the Life is Good Kids Foundation. He is a pioneer in utilizing playful engagement and meaningful relationships to overcome the devastating impact of early childhood trauma.

Steve’s 2018 keynote presentation is titled “Spreading the Power of Optimism through Play.”

Steve is serious about play – and its tremendous benefits for all people. The Life is good Kids Foundation is a non-profit organization that for twenty years has used play to help children overcome life threatening challenges such as poverty, violence and illness. A recognized expert in utilizing, joyful play to promote resiliency in children, he has extended those insights to adults, reconnecting them to the passionate, joyful and playful selves that enable them to be their best in and out of the workplace.

Through research, first-hand lessons learned in his crisis response efforts following Hurricane Katrina, the Haiti earthquake and his uniquely humorous and participatory engagement with audiences, Steve demonstrates how to use playfulness to energize individuals, teams and organizations – especially in challenging, change-filled times – allowing them to reach their full potential.

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 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.


September #WePlayChat: Creating a Healthier Life by Participating in Play

Join us Thursday, September 28 at 12:00pm EST as we welcome co-moderator Darryl Edwards; Creator of the Primal Play Method™ to our #WePlayChat on “Creating a healthier life by participating in play.

Darryl Edwards, is a Natural Lifestyle Educator, movement coach and creator of the Primal Play Method™. Darryl developed the Primal Play methodology to inspire others to make activity fun while getting healthier, fitter and stronger in the process.

Darryl is the author of several award-winning books including Paleo Fitness and Paleo from A to Z. His work has been published in titles such as Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Elle Magazine, Men’s Fitness and he has featured on the BBC documentaries Eat to Live Forever and Doctor In The House.

Feel free to connect with Darryl at PrimalPlay.com, on Facebook at facebook.com/DarrylFEdwards Twitter @fitnessexplorer, Instagram @fitnessexplorer

Here are the chat questions that will guide our dialogue:
Q1. How does play lead to positive health benefits?
Q2. How does play support positive mental well being?
Q3. What challenges exist which prevent people from playing?

Q4. Can playing influence other areas of your life? I.e. relationships? work

#WePlayChat is our monthly Twitter chat for anyone seeking to gain knowledge around the wide open field of play. Launched in 2016, our #WePlayChat participants come from 8 countries, spanning 4 continents – all tuning in to connect around PLAY.  This FREE professional learning opportunity is a great way to connect with fellow play enthusiasts, teachers and experts from across the globe.

We love sharing the voice of play on Twitter through our #WePlayChat.  We have our chats at different times on different days to get the most involvement across our membership.  You will not want to miss them! Tune in and to join in the conversation around the value of play.

#WePlayChat: How Communities Can Promote Play

Join us Tuesday, August 29 at 12:00pm EST as we welcome co-moderator Carly Demanett of the Eugene Civic Alliance to our #WePlayChat on “How Communities Can Promote Play.”

Carly Demanett is the Media and Communications Manager for Eugene Civic Alliance (ECA) in Eugene, OR. ECA was established to build and operate a community sports and entertainment venue to benefit the children of Eugene. 

It’s about kids and how we as a community provide for their basic physical fitness. It’s about how healthy activities affect our community and economy. It’s about the resilience of a community, despite setbacks, to play on.”

Here are the chat questions that will guide our dialogue:

Q1. What are your local communities doing to support play?
Q2. What are the secret ingredients to supporting sustainable play initiatives?
Q3: What is the best way to effectively communicate the importance of play within a community?
Q4: How can partnering with other orgs/businesses/schools/etc. help promote play?

#WePlayChat is our monthly Twitter chat for anyone seeking to gain knowledge around the wide open field of play. Launched in 2016, our #WePlayChat participants come from 7 countries, spanning 4 continents – all tuning in to connect around PLAY. We love sharing the voice of play on Twitter through our #WePlayChat.  We have our chats at different times on different days to get the most involvement across our membership.  You will not want to miss them! Tune in and to join in the conversation around the value of play. This FREE professional learning opportunity is a great way to connect with fellow play enthusiasts, teachers and experts from across the globe.

Book Review: Playing it Up– With Loose Parts, Playpods, and Adventure Playgrounds

Book Review by Dr. Debora B. Wisneski (University of Nebraska- Omaha) with Melany Spiehs and Carol Burk (Omaha Public Schools)

Almon, J. (Ed.)(2017). Playing it up– With loose parts, playpods, and adventure playgrounds. Annapolis, MD: Alliance for Childhood.

Debora: In 2014 in Vancouver Canada, I was able to listen to the Canadian environmental activist Severn Cullis-Suzuki give an impassioned speech on the future. She was speaking of building a better world for our children’s future. Part of her presentation included her reminiscing of her involvement in the environmental movement. She recalled in her younger years feeling the need to fight- against policies harmful to the earth and against corporations who polluted. However, she had made a transition in her career from fighting to one of building. She came to the realization that when the powers- that-be would one day come to the realization that harming the earth is unsustainable, they would need to turn to those who know how to live in earth-friendly and sustainable ways. Thus, Cullis-Suzuki began to focus her efforts on creating a sustainable community where she lives and raises her family. In the process, she also came to the realization that the Utopia she dreamed of currently would not exist at a national or global level, but she discovered that there was a network of such communities that already existed around the world. These communities created a sort of web that spread across the globe that could stay connected though so far apart.

Cullis-Suzuki’s description of the state of her cause, reminded me of the plight of play in American schools and lives. It is easy to get discouraged when fighting against school policies and practices that hinder children’s play in education; however, I have become more hopeful when I have turned my attention to collaborating with others to build play spaces in schools and communities. While every city or school does not support play, there are many places and people around the world that are building play spaces. Joan Almon’s new book “Playing It Up- With Loose Parts, Play Pods, and Adventure Playgrounds” is a wonderful documentation of the work of play advocates and playworkers around the U.S. who are building play spaces and expanding our network of play communities. In Almon’s edited book each chapter is written by a play leader who describes in detail innovative ways play spaces are being designed and what materials are being organized and used in these spaces. The book opens with a ringing endorsement by Dr. Stuart Brown.

Melany: The first chapter begins with Almon describing the state of play in the U.S. and her concerns for children. She displays a deep respect for young children and her message is one of urgency but not hopelessness. Due to our current society filled with lawsuits, safety is a major concern in schools. She states, “Society’s fear of play, with its various physical and psychological risks, remains a major obstacle that needs to be overcome, or at least minimized, if children are to play freely again” (p. 3). Children use play to deal with stress and anxiety and with the decrease in play children are displaying an increase in obesity, depression, hyperactive disorders and autism. Yet, Almon trusts that children are naturally risk aware and a good at assessing risk and thus, advocates for loose parts, playpods and adventure playgrounds to support their play.

Debora: The second chapter, written by Rusty Keeler, offers a reflection of the state of free and risky play in the U.S. and his recognition that play is returning to the world of children. As he states, “The world is changing because we are consciously evolving it. We are consciously choosing to say “yes” to the play opportunities we believe children need” (p. 15) The following chapters are written by the play leaders from around the U.S. describing the unique aspects of their play spaces and providing evidence of this play evolution. Along with the stories, there are beautiful high quality photographs that make you want to be in these spaces and extensive biographies and websites of the contributors which is extremely important when we are striving to make connections within this movement. The first section of stories focuses on the process of starting up play projects and the practical details necessary for success. The second section highlights various examples of adventure playgrounds- the risky child-initiated wild spaces with loose parts and minimal adult intervention that were considered taboo in American culture. On these pages, these fantastic spaces come to life. The third section describes play pods in parks and schools- smaller outdoor spaces but with a multitude of recyclable and reused materials for building and pretend- changing how children play during traditional recesses. The fourth section illustrates the movement of bringing play back to nature. The book concludes with calls to advocate for play and essential lists of resources, play advocacy groups, and the principles of playwork- all the tools one could use to begin his or her own play project. And this is the real power of the book- it inspires one to action. It is contagious as two of our reviewers who are preschool teachers discovered. Here, they describe how Almon and her co-authors inspired action at their preschool and elementary school:

Melany: At Spring Lake (Elementary), we have an abandoned outdoor classroom on site. It is a large area blocked off by a chain link fence. Inside there are trees, small sheds and overgrown raised beds. The weeds have taken over and there has been no one to take care of the area since it closed down many years ago. I have had my eye on this space since I started at Spring Lake back in August. After talking to my team and my administrators I have been given permission to lead a resurrection of this outdoor classroom. Seeing Joan Almon’s photos of children playing in nature and reading the play stories encouraged me to take this leap of faith. She was that gentle nudge that I needed to be an advocate for outdoor play at my school.

We read Joan’s book before we opened up our outdoor classroom. Her words about risk assessment helped us to remember that children are capable and can do their own assessment. It made for a more authentic experience for everyone. We noticed there was minimal re-directing from adults, almost no conflicts between children, and children resolving, negotiating, and compromising with each other.

Reviewers Carol Burk, Debora Wisneski, and Melany Spiehs

“Playing It Up” can be ordered from amazon.com and is available at no cost online at allianceforchildhood.org. We recommend this book as essential for the play movement today.

PlayGrounding Podcast a New Resource for Play Fans Everywhere

The US Play Coalition is pleased to announce our new resource for play fans everywhere – PlayGrounding Podcast.

PlayGrounding is about the power of play and what it means to live a play-inspired life. Not just the “blow off some steam” kind of play, but the kind that can sharpen your mind, make you more creative and help you move from discontentment toward fulfillment.

Host Kara Stewart Fortier launched the podcast on a quest to learn about the many facets of play.  While on her quest, she discovered the US Play Coalition in late 2016.  Fortier reached out to learn more, interviewing Play Ambassador Coordinator Ryan Fahey in January…and the relationship took off.   She attended the 2017 Conference on the Value of Play and was inspired.  Since the conference, many of her podcast guests have been Play Conference speakers and play ambassadors.

“Kara and The PlayGrounding Podcast provide a new take on the world of play – approaching it as an adult looking to reclaim and re-explore what she had in her youth.  Adding the podcast to the Play Coalition portfolio of resources helps us to further our mission to promote play throughout life. Kara’s is a unique voice for play,” says Stephanie Garst, executive director for the US Play Coalition.

“I found my people!” says Fortier of the US Play Coalition.  “I’m so grateful to the US Play Coalition for teaching me so much about the value of play. I’m excited to see where this partnership adventure leads!”

So check out our latest play resource, PlayGrounding Podcast.  As her site says, “after hearing what many of the PlayGrounding Podcast guests have to say, you’ll start to realize that play is as important to our physical and mental health as sleep, exercise and good nutrition.”