Joe L. Frost Award for Distinguished Research

The Joe L. Frost Award for Distinguished Research is given annually in recognition of a body of exceptional research that has enhanced and expanded the study of play.

Dr. Joe L. Frost, Ed.D, L.H.D. (1933-2020), was one of America’s leading experts on play and playgrounds with a global reputation as the contemporary father of play advocacy.  He was the longtime Parker Centennial Professor Emeritus at The University of Texas at Austin with a passion for children’s play and play spaces.

Joe was influential in the creation of the U.S. Play Coalition, serving as a steering committee member since the coalition’s beginning in 2009. He served as moderator that year at the coalition’s first conference – then called the Summit on the Value of Play –and was honorary chair for each successive play conference through the 10th anniversary conference in 2019.

At the 2017 Conference on the Value of Play, the US Play Coalition presented the inaugural Joe L. Frost Award for Distinguished Research.  “Joe Frost has been an influencer for our organization’s work as well as for the world of play,” said Stephanie Garst, executive director of the US Play Coalition. “The creation of this award is a fitting tribute.  It only made sense that Joe was the first recipient!”

Recipients of the Joe L. Frost Award for Distinguished Research:

2022 – Debora Wisneski, PhD, Professor and John T. Langan Community Chair in Early Childhood Education in the Teacher Education Department at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. She has taught for over 30 years at the preschool, kindergarten, and higher education levels. Her research includes how educators can support children’s play in educational settings. Wisneski leads a team of teacher educators and researchers at the University of Nebraska Omaha on play and assisted in the creation of the UNO PLAY Lab.  She is also the current president of The Association for the Study of Play (TASP).

2021 – Robin C. Moore, an urban designer and design researcher, specializing in child and family urban environments that support healthy human development, informal play, and non-formal education. He is professor of landscape architecture and environmental planning and director of the Natural Learning Initiative at North Carolina State University.  His contribution to the field of design is considered a model for outdoor play facilities for children and families.

2020 – Stuart Brown, MD. 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.  Our species, Brown says, “is built for play, and built by play.”

2019 – Lynn A. Barnett, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Recreation, Sport & Tourism at the University of Illinois and Fellow in the Academy of Leisure Sciences.  Dr. Barnett has had a long and sustained record of contributions to the study of play throughout her career, which started in the 1970s. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications including books, scholarly journals, technical reports, and papers at professional meetings.

2018 – Olga S. Jarrett, Ph.D., is Professor Emerita in the Department of Early Childhood and Elementary Education at Georgia State University where she taught courses in child development, teaching methods for urban teachers, and a seminar on play. Her research has focused on science inquiry and the role of play in developing an interest in science, on service learning, and on recess behavior and the effects of recess on classroom behavior.  She is a past president of The Association for the Study of Play and the American Association for the Child’s Right to Play.

2017 – The inaugural Joe L. Frost Award for Distinguished Research was presented to its namesake – Joe L. Frost, the contemporary father of play advocacy.  Dr. Frost was one of America’s leading experts on play and playgrounds with a global reputation as the contemporary father of play advocacy. (Photographed receiving the award with the co-founders of the US Play Coalition, Brett Wright and Fran Mainella.)