2016 Grant Winners Announced

Grant funding is a distinctive feature of our annual Play Conference, and we are proud to have awarded $41,000 in funding to date.   At The Play Conference 2016: Rebooting Play the new grant winners were announced.  The review process was challenging as we had a record number of outstanding submissions this year.

Each year a $3,000 research seed grant is awarded to researchers who present empirical research at The Play Conference to support new, innovative and thoughtful work on the valreserach grant winners 2016ue of play.  This is seed funding in support of longitudinal or future research in diverse topics related to play, and grant recipients’ work reflects great potential for expanding knowledge in the field.  This year, much of the funding for the research seed grant came from our first ever Giving TuesPLAY initiative.

The 2016 Research Seed Grant was awarded to Debbie Rhea and Alexander Rivchun from Texas Christian University for their project, “The effects of play and character development on classroom behaviors and attentional fatigue in public school grades K & 1.”

In addition to the research grant, $1000 action grants are awarded to support creative and innovative proposals to engage groups in play or to educate about the value of play. This year we had two partners supporting our action grants, Genius of Play and IPA-USA.  We also had funding from our Giving TuesPLAY initiative.

There were three projects that each received a 2016 Action Grant:
– The Playworker Project, Megan Dickerson from The New Children’s Museum
Seniz Yargici Lennes, IPA-USA Outgoing President Dorothy Sluss, 2016 Action Grant Winner Megan Dickerson, Genius of Play's Anna Yudina, and Fran Mainella– Using an Outdoor Classroom to Extend Learning through Play, Kristine Jenkins from First Steps South Carolinakristine-jenkins_124x140
– Playing for a Change in Elementary Schools, Sondra Smith-Adcock from University of FloridaSeniz Yargici Lennes, IPA-USA Outgoing President Dorothy Sluss, 2016 Action Grant Winner Sondra Smith-Adcock, Genius of Play's Anna Yudina, and Fran Mainella

Nickelodeon’s Worldwide Day of Play Champion to be PLAYtalk Presenter at The Play Conference 2016

Jean Margaret Smith

Nickelodeon’s Jean Margaret Smith, will be one of the first ever PLAYtalk presenters at The Play Conference 2016: Rebooting Play.

Smith is Senior Vice President of Public Affairs and Administration for Nickelodeon.  For more than a decade under her direction, Nickelodeon championed Worldwide Day of Play, an unprecedented annual event in which all Nickelodeon channels suspend programming and the network and its partners host grassroots events with the message: “get up, get out and go play.” (In 2015, the US Play Coalition became a partner in the WWDoP initiative!)  Smith will speak on this groundbreaking initiative in her PLAYtalk entitled, “Nickelodeon’s Worldwide Day of Play: Its Impact and Its Future.”

Jean Margaret Smith is responsible for managing the network’s strategic relationships with social advocates, elected officials, and public opinion leaders, as well as spearheading the company’s overall public affairs agenda, including signature pro-social initiatives and overall corporate responsibility. She has helped craft several long-term, strategic initiatives to address social concerns impacting children and their families including HALO Awards, Beyond the Backpack and Get Dirty. She sets the company’s corporate social responsibility agenda.

Smith spearheads outreach to key public affairs external constituencies for all Nickelodeon television brands and businesses, including Nick Jr, TeenNick, and Nicktoons. In addition, she works closely with the Nickelodeon digital brands such as Nick.com and TeenNick.com on incorporating pro-social content, managing digital and online privacy and safety issues, and raising other public awareness issues. Smith also oversees the company’s relationships with key partners including the Afterschool Alliance, Boys and Girls Clubs, and the YMCA to amplify the network’s commitment to kids and families.

“To say that Jean Margaret is committed to family, community and PLAY is an understatement!” says Stephanie Garst, executive director of the US Play Coalition. “We are thrilled that she will be with us for The Play Conference 2016!”

Learn more about the conference by clicking here.

Nature Rx Filmmaker Justin Bogardus to Join PLAYtalk Lineup

Our next PLAYtalk presenter just found the cure for EVERYTHING bad in your life – a prescription for Nature!

nature rx collage


Justin Bogardus’ short Nature Rx films (over 25 million views through Facebook and Youtube) have entered the world vernacular with their unique dose of laughs and the outdoors – two timeless prescriptions for whatever ails you. Nature Rx parts 1, 2, and 3 have appeared at over 50 film festivals worldwide, garnering several best short awards, and national attention from Outside Magazine, National Geographic, Sierra Club, Wired Magazine, Upworthy, and others.

Justin’s filmmaking career began in NYC in 2004 when he produced several award-winning documentaries for television about wrongful convictions and post-conviction DNA exonerations. Alongside his film work, Justin Bogardus has a master’s degree in contemplative psychology, and teaches part time at Naropa University. Currently Justin is developing the next Nature Rx series – Nature Rx Kids. His PLAYtalk at The Play Conference 2016 will be “Does Nature have a Marketing Problem?”

We are thrilled that Justin will be with us for The Play Conference 2016! 


Sneak Peek of Award Winning film “NaturePlay” at The Play Conference 2016

Attendees of The Play Conference 2016: Rebooting Play will get a special sneak peek of the brand new, award winning documentary NaturePlay.

NaturePlay is a stunning 4K, Cinematic portrait of Childhood defining education and play. Upon the start of their own child’s education, the Danish/American filmmakers discover that in the USA rampant school testing has become a virus, turning the system into an infected beast. In their search for a cure, they go on an inspiring Nordic journey to uncover how children naturally learn and a way to take childhood back. A secret defense is also unveiled to rescue these children. One that can drive social change.  In a High Stakes education – What’s truly at stake?  Our Children.

Most recently, NaturePlay won the award of Excellence from the Accolade Global Film Competition.  Each year Accolade bestows a Humanitarian Award to a deserving filmmaker who is committed to making a difference in the world and recognizes filmmakers who have created outstanding films that fulfill the goals of this prestigious award.

The goal of the Humanitarian Award is to honor filmmakers who are bringing awareness to issues of Ecological, Political, Social Justice, Health and Wellness, Animals, Wildlife, Conservation and Spiritual importance. (One of the others winners was Ridley Scott for his film ZERO.) That makes 4 awards total for NaturePlay so far, including one for Cinematography


Our First Giving TuesPLAY a SUCCESS!

12341633_1093585690653853_317839602983039713_nA big, loud, cheerful THANK YOU to everyone who gave on Giving TuesPLAY! Thanks to YOU we raised funds for two action grants and then some! With 100% participation from our amazing steering committee and dozens of first time donors, we cannot be more proud of our very first Giving Tuesday initiative.

After Black Friday and Cyber Monday is #GivingTuesday. It is a global day dedicated to giving back. On Tuesday, December 1, 2015, the US Play Coalition was a part of #GivingTuesday, encouraging members, friends and play advocates to support us by donating to our Action and Research Grants to create our first ever #GivingTuesday Grants for playmakers and researchers whose work has the potential to improve and expand the Play Movement. We called it Giving TuesPLAY! (Get it?!)

Even though GivingTuesPLAY has passed, you can give play every day! If you believe in the value of play, please give when you can!

Here is YOUR chance to GIVE the gift of PLAY on Giving TuesPLAY!

Giving TuesPLAY Cover Photo

After Black Friday and Cyber Monday is #GivingTuesday. It is a global day dedicated to giving back. On Tuesday, December 1, 2015, the US Play Coalition will be a part of #GivingTuesday, encouraging YOU to support PLAY by donating to our Action and Research Grants to create our first ever #GivingTuesday Grants for playmakers and researchers whose work has the potential to improve and expand the Play Movement. We are calling it Giving TuesPLAY! (Get it?!) Big or small, your gift MATTERS!!

Our 2015 Research Grant Recipients from Appalachian State University have used our funds to pilot a 2015 researchgrantpediatrician prescription program for outdoor play targeting children.  Currently, we have 3 local pediatricians providing patients and their parents with “Outdoor Activity in Nature” prescriptions and info on local places for play and why play is important.

One of our 2015 Action Grant Recipients is Play at the Core from Right to Play.  This year, using our Action Grant Funds, Play at the Core has RTP action grant 2015piloted two different parent engagement formats—with the aim of familiarizing, and fostering confidence in using play-based learning practices in the home. They work in under-resourced Community Based Organizations (CBOs) in some of the most disadvantaged neighborhoods in New York City located in the Bronx, Harlem, and Washington Heights.

Our other 2015 Action Grant Winners were from Missouri State University. Their project looked at 2015 action grant MSUproviding appropriate play experiences for children with autism.  They worked with 28 children, grades K-12, with ASD from the Rivendale Institute of Learning and Center for Autism in Springfield, MO, and approximately 25 undergraduate Kinesiology majors at MSU.



Renowned Psychologist Peter Gray to give first ever PLAYtalk

Peter A 2 copyOur first ever PLAYtalk presenter will be renowned psychologist Dr. Peter Gray. PLAYtalks are our Play Conference version of TED Talks.  They will be a series of 15-20 minute dynamic, entertaining, enlightening, engaging, inspiring, informative talks by thought leaders in the play world.

Dr. Gray is a research professor of psychology at Boston College, has conducted and published research in neuroendocrinology, developmental psychology, anthropology, and education.  He is author of an internationally acclaimed introductory psychology textbook (Psychology, Worth Publishers, now in its 7thedition), which views all of psychology from an evolutionary perspective.

Gray’s recent research focuses on the roles of play in human evolution and how children educate themselves, through play and exploration, when they are free to do so. He has expanded on these ideas in his recent book, Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life (Basic Books, 2013). He also authors a popular blog called Freedom to Learn, for Psychology Today magazine.

We are thrilled that Dr. Gray will be with us for The Play Conference 2016! Learn more about the conference by clicking here.

Early bird registration is now open!

Founder of Outdoor Afro to Keynote The Play Conference 2016

The U.S. Play Coalition is proud to announce that Rue Mapp, founder of Outdoor Afro, will be a keynote speaker for The Play Conference 2016: Rebooting Play, April 3-6, at Clemson University.

Outdoor Afro is a community that reconnects African-Americans with natural spaces and one another through recreational activities such as camping,hiking, biking, birding, fishing, gardening, skiing – and PLAY!  Learn how this cutting edge concept grew from Rue’s modest blog in 2009 to a national network that has captured the attention and imagination of millions through a multi-media approach, grounded in personal connections and community organizing.  Rue will share the Outdoor Afro model for creating opportunities to build community and leadership by PLAYing together in nature.

In 2010, Rue Mapp was invited to the White House to participate in the America’s Great Outdoors Conference, and subsequently to take part in a think-tank to inform the launch of the First Lady’s “Let’s Move” initiative. She was appointed program officer for the Stewardship Council’s Foundation for Youth Investment to oversee its grant-making program from 2010-2012.

Since that time, Mapp’s work has been featured in publications including The Wall Street Journal, Backpacker Magazine, Ebony Magazine, Sunset Magazine, NPR, and many others.

Rue’s ongoing work has been recognized with numerous Awards and Distinctions: The Root 100 as one of the most influential African Americans in the country, Outdoor Industry Inspiration Award, 2014 National Wildlife Federation Communication award (received alongside President Bill Clinton) and in May 2015, Family Circle Magazine selected Rue as one of America’s 20 Most Influential Moms.

Rue is proud to serve on the Board of Rails to Trails Conservancy, American Camp Association, and the Outdoor Industry Association. Most recently, Rue was appointed to the California State Parks Commission by Governor Jerry Brown.

A graduate of UC Berkeley (with a Degree in Art History), Rue’s skills and background make her a unique voice via the programs she has instituted through OA and enlightened a diverse community to the wonders and benefits of the outdoors. Rue resides in Oakland CA, and is the proud mother of three active teenage children.

We are thrilled that Rue will be with us for The Play Conference 2016! Learn more about the conference by clicking here.

Early bird registration is now open!

Founder of Free Range Kids to Keynote The Play Conference 2016

The US Play Coalition is thrilled to announce that Lenore Skenazy will be the first keynote speaker for The Play Conference 2016: Rebooting Play, April 3-6, at Clemson University.  She is founder of the book, blog and movement, “Free-Range Kids”lenore collage, which launched the anti-helicopter parenting crusade.  Her keynote presentation, “Free Range Kids: Raising Safe, Self-Reliant, PLAYFUL Children without Going Nuts with Worry,” will examine our culture’s obsession with risk, and how to flip it to an obsession with play.

A public speaker, Lenore Skenazy has lectured everywhere from Microsoft headquarters to the Sydney Opera House. She’s also a frequent guest on talk shows and has written for everyone from The Daily News (where she was a reporter for 14 years) to Mad Magazine. Yep. THE Mad Magazine (She’s funny!).  Skenazy has been profiled in The New York Times and The New Yorker, and was recently featured on The Daily Show with John Stewart.

The goal of Free-Range Kids is “fighting the belief that our children are in constant danger from creeps, kidnapping, germs, grades, flashers, frustration, failure, baby snatchers, bugs, bullies, men, sleepovers and/or the perils of a non-organic grape.”

A graduate of Yale and Columbia, Lenore Skenazy lives in New York City with her husband and teen sons who are half-Free-Range and half social media addicts. Then again, so is she.

Learn more about The Play Conference 2016 by clicking here.

Early bird registration is now open!

2016 Play Conference Gets a REBOOT

The US Play Coalition is beyond excited to announce that next year’s conference is NEW AND IMPROVED! In fact, it has been REBOOTED!  New Dates, New Approaches, New Opportunities.

The Play Conference 2016: Rebooting Play is April 3-6, 2016 at the Madren Conference Center in Clemson, SC.

Building on the energy and innovation that came from our snowy and sometimes “power-free” 2015 conference, there will be new elements for the 2016 conference – round tables, fireside chats, coffee talks and “Play Talks.” The dates have also been changed to April to (hopefully) avoid the snow!

Round tables will feature knowledgeable facilitators around critical issues and trends in the field. Fireside Chats and Coffee Talks will harness the organic opportunities for networking, collaborating and research. And “Play Talks,” our version of TED Talks, will be a series of 15-20 minute dynamic, entertaining, enlightening, engaging, inspiring, informative talks by thought leaders in the play world. These new components, coupled with traditional presentations and our epic PLAY breaks will make The Play Conference an event not to be missed. Be sure to mark your calendars!!

While you are marking your calendar, you may want to reserve your hotel room.  The James F. Martin Inn is attached to the Madren Conference Center. A block of rooms has been reserved for conference attendees for only $109 per night (does NOT include breakfast). A block of rooms is also available at the Holiday Inn Express in Clemson for $99/night including breakfast. We will have a regular complimentary shuttle from there to the conference and back.

Sponsorship opportunities are available. Email Stephanie Garst at spgarst@clemson.edu for more details. A call for Presentation Proposals will be out in early September.