2nd Midwest Play Conference: Nature and Loose Parts Play Workshop

Participants will explore the outdoors and learn about the benefits of nature and loose parts play for children’s and adult’s development! Hear from nationally renowned speaker and author of early childhood books, Jeff Johnson, and nature/outdoor play advocates who hosts the podcast Q & A with T & K, Tiffany Pearsall and Kristen Peterson.  Session topics descriptions are included below:

Trusting Kids As Learners with Jeff Johnson
Description: Children are wired for learning–they are good at it, eager to do it, and driven to it–yet too often we adults get in the way and take control of learning. We expect kids to learn what we want, when we want, how we want, and where we want. This session is about trusting kids as learners and creating environments where they are free to lead their learning.

Do It Yourself Early Learning with Jeff Johnson

Description: This session takes a hands-on look at dozens of ideas for using materials from your home center, grocery story, big box store, dollar store, or recycling bin to promote child-directed play, exploration, discovery, and learning.

Get them Outdoors! With Tiffany Pearsall and Kristen Peterson

Description: The hosts of the early learning podcast, Q&A with T&K, will speak about nature play, the importance of getting kids outdoors, and how to incorporate typical indoor activities outside!  Participants will then get to play and interact in Butterfly Hill’s certified Nature Explore Outdoor Classroom in a workshop style setting.

Cost of Registration:
Early bird (Register before July 3rd) : $50
Regular Registration: $75
Student rate (high school, undergraduate): $40


How I PLAYED During My First Sabbatical

The Story of How the Midwest Play Conference Came to Be

heather von bank
I love my job. Not many people can say that with a straight face, but I can. After my 6th year of working as a professor at Minnesota State University – Mankato, the opportunity came to apply for my first sabbatical.  When asked about my sabbatical plans a question mark seemed to loom over my head.  I love teaching and working with students, but what else could I possibly do that would provide me with the same rewards that I get while being in the classroom? Then my lightbulb moment occurred.  lightbulb

I wanted my sabbatical project to be meaningful for my own research and academic interests, but I also wanted the project make an impact on my community. I’ve been attending the US Play Coalition Value of Play Conference every year for 5 years. I’ve had the opportunity to meet playful passionate people, learn about national and international efforts to promote play and found countless ways to improve my teaching and scholarship through professional development practices. I wanted to replicate the formula and create a regional conference in partnership with the US Play Coalition, to bring the message about the importance of play to individuals in the Midwest.  Why the Midwest?  Besides the fact that I live here, there are so many educators and professionals who are passionate about play but were not familiar with the US Play Coalition, particularly in this region.

So…the first ever regional US Play Coalition conference will be held June 25th in Mankato, Minnesota. The Midwest Play Conference will feature Lisa Murphy, a motivational midwest play logospeaker who has years of experience working in early childhood settings, who encourages teachers, parents, and community members to be messy and playful in working with children. The conference will also feature 20 presenters who will be speaking on a variety of topics like nature play, play in early childhood classrooms, ideas for bringing nature inside, and ways to support teachers and their professional development with playful methods. The Midwest Play Conference was designed to reach out to caregivers, parents, community members, and recreation, parks and leisure services professionals, but will be beneficial for anyone who values and supports play.  By attending the conference, attendees will gain a greater appreciation and understanding of local and regional efforts to support play. Who knows, maybe it will be your chance to create a regional conference next!