The US Play Coalition 2012 Conference on the Value of Play: Multi-Generational Actions and Strategies was held February 26-29, 2012, at Clemson University’s Madren Conference Center. The attendance increased by more than 25% to over 265 attendees coming from the United States, Canada, England, The Netherlands, Costa Rica, and China. The US Play Coalition is a partnership to promote the value of play throughout life.
Two historic events occurred during the conference. Two delegations from Shanghai, China, signed memoranda of understanding with the US Play Coalition and Clemson University to further advocacy of play. One represented the Shanghai Government version of parks and recreation and the other was the Shanghai University of Sport. Secondly, to support the US Play Coalition conference, Clemson University declared their first-ever Play Day on February 28 encouraging their students to join with the conference attendees for 60 minutes of play at 2:30 in the afternoon and to incorporate play into their lives year-round.
This year’s conference included five keynote speakers presenting their perspectives on play for all ages:
- Li Weiting, Deputy Director of the Shanghai Administration of Sports, spoke on “Better Sports, Better Life” highlighting the recent new interest in organized sports and recreation for all members of the community. Since the 2008 Beijing Olympics, China has implemented a new emphasis on national fitness with a goal of having a recreational facility within 500 meters of every citizen.
- Dr. Geoffrey Godbey, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Management at Penn State University, spoke on “Taking the Benefits of Lifetime Play Seriously.” Presenting a long list of play definitions and benefits, he summarized the lifetime benefits to include health benefits as an alternative to prescription drugs; an enhancer of creativity, physical fitness, and intelligence; a stress reliever; and an aid to maintaining independent living.
- Dr. Joe Frost, Parker Centennial Professor Emeritus, University of Texas, and Honorary Program Chair of the 2012 Conference on the Value of Play, presented the latest research findings from 2011-2012 in his address entitled, “Intergenerational Research on Play, Health and Well-Being: What Works?”
- Bernard Griesemer, M.D., F.A.A.P., Pediatrician, spoke on “Decades of Play: What has your Doctor Learned so Far!” giving many of his own personal insights in treating patients as well as the guidelines from the American Association of Pediatrics for encouraging physical activity and sports for children.
- Dr. James Rimmer, Lakeshore Foundation Endowed Chair in Health Promotion and Rehabilitation Science, University of Alabama at Birmingham, spoke on “Building Inclusive Play Environments One Community at a Time.” He presented the difficulties facing children with special needs for play opportunities and stressed the need for removing barriers to inclusive play.
With nearly 100 presenters and poster presentations from a wide variety of fields, 75 educational sessions were offered as well as 12 featured speaker sessions. Some of the many topics covered during the conference included health issues, outdoor play, sports, inclusive play, community play days, play space design, play-based learning, recess, physical activity, parks and recreation programs, and the value of play. There was a Playwork Mini-Conference hosted by Joan Almon of the Alliance for Childhood at the end of the conference for those interested in establishing playwork as a profession in the United States.
An important aspect of the US Play Coalition is its dedication to promoting research in the field of play. There were 12 finalists for the three research seed grants of $3,000. The grant recipients for the 2012 Conference were:
- Reva Fish, Assistant Professor, SUNY College at Buffalo – "Wouldn't it be Nice if Everybody were on the Same Page? The Conflict over Pre-School"
- Andrew Kaczynski, Assistant Professor, Kansas State University – “Youth Physical Activity Within Park Activity Areas: Differences by Gender and Race/Ethnicity”
- Megan Tulac, National Institute for Play – “Creating the Encyclopedia of Play Science”
Volunteer-led committees of the US Play Coalition met during the conference to further the goals of the Coalition in areas, such as research, communications, development, inclusiveness, and guidelines. All members of the US Play Coalition are invited to participate in these meetings and to play an active role in this work. The Coalition has grown to more than 1,200 members since its inception in 2009, and the momentum for play advocacy is growing.1
- 1. US Play Coalition 2012 Conference on the Value of Play: Multi-Generational Actions and Strategies, conference schedule. < http://usplaycoalition.clemson.edu/ > 8 March 2012.