CLEMSON — The US Play Coalition’s 2017 Conference on the Value of Play: Where Design Meets Play will take place April 2-5 at Clemson University’s Madren Center. This year’s conference will focus on the many facets of play just as it has in recent years, but there will be a special emphasis on the design of areas that facilitate it.

Matthew Urbanski, landscape architect and innovative play space designer, is the conference’s keynote speaker and discuss how the design of play spaces supports an integration of active and imaginative play. Stephanie Garst, executive director of the US Play Coalition, which is based at Clemson, said this year’s conference will expand on themes related to play while staying true to what has made the conferences successful in the past.

There will be a special emphasis on the design of areas that facilitate play at this year’s US Play Coalition conference.

There will be a special emphasis on the design of areas that facilitate play at this year’s US Play Coalition conference.

“It’s exciting to have a speaker of Matthew’s caliber here to discuss not just play, but how to create an environment that encourages it,” Garst said. “Attendees will hear from true experts across the play industry while also enjoying the many other activities at our conference.”

The latest research and practices in the field of play will be presented at the conference, which brings together leading play researchers and advocates from across the U.S. and world. The event includes educational sessions, grant opportunities, dozens of renowned speakers and opportunities for play, including an hour of “unstructured play” for conference participants beginning at 3:35 p.m. Tuesday.

The conference’s PLAYtalks are the coalition’s take on TED Talks and will feature a variety of speakers this year. Kimberly S. Clay, founder and executive director of Play Like a Girl, will discuss the empowerment of women and girls to engage in sport and active play. Other PLAYtalks will feature Pat Rumbaugh, founder of Let’s Play America, and James Siegal, CEO of KaBOOM!, a non-profit encouraging active play into kids’ daily lives, especially those growing up in poverty.

Conference on the Value of Play participants -- including the Clemson Tiger -- take part in a game of musical chairs at the 2013 conference. More than 200 play researchers and advocates from across the nation and world will gather for lectures and panel discussions about the benefits of play at the 2014 conference, to be held Feb. 16-19 at Clemson's Madren Center.

Conference on the Value of Play participants — including the Clemson Tiger — take part in a game of musical chairs at the 2013 conference.
Image Credit: Christopher Phillips

The conference will also award Joe Frost, known as the “father of play advocacy,” with the inaugural Joe L. Frost Award for Distinguished Research, which recognizes an individual’s body of exceptional research that has enhanced and expanded the study of play. Frost will be on hand to receive the award.

“Joe is recognized around the world for his work in children’s play and play environments,” Garst said. “He is an influencer in the world of play; we hope awards and recognition like this will help to expand play research going forward.”

Frost has dedicated 34 years to teaching at the University of Texas at Austin. He is a former president of the Association for Childhood Education International and has lectured and served as a consultant worldwide. He leads a 30-year-old research program addressed to the field, has co-authored or edited 18 books and has been featured in numerous articles and publications.

More information and conference registration is available online at usplaycoalition.org/the-play-conference-2017.

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