Audience members jumped across hopscotch squares to their theater seats, which held containers in the cup holders filled with small animal figurines and bouncy balls to entertain themselves during an interactive panel discussion, “Playing with Play.”
Four panelists discussed the importance of playing, and how it is not just for children, at the Fredric March Play Circle Theater in Memorial Union Tuesday. The speakers included Kim Lombardi, an “adult recess coach” who teaches businesses how to have fun in a work setting; James Edward Mills, a journalist and writer of an outdoor recreation novel; Renee Jones, owner of TrunkBASS Entertainment and music advocate; and Deshawn McKinney, a fourth-year UW-Madison student and Wisconsin Union president.
Wisconsin Union partnered with Intellectual Ratchet, a for-profit organization that looks to attract diverse young professionals and graduate students in Madison, in order to make the Union spaces more welcoming for students, especially for those of historically marginalized groups. “Playing with Play” was the first collaborative event hosted by both groups. The goals of the groups are to exhibit how the spaces can be used for play and enjoyment.
“We're here to return us to a definition of play that we inherently know when we're younger and how play can also be a serious form of research,” McKinney said. “Play, in it's ability to foster safe spaces and welcoming environments where people are willing to challenge each other and try new things spontaneously, takes on a different reality when you're older.”
The panelists fielded questions from the audience and explained play as a way of benefiting all aspects of adult life. They said that it increases productivity and creates a more cohesive working environment in the office and school spaces. They emphasized that play is a way of expression that adults should not be ashamed of participating in.
McKinney said this is the beginning of the play campaign and more events will follow throughout the academic year. Both Wisconsin Union and Intellectual Ratchet want the idea of play to make more inviting spaces for all students.
“There’s so much going on with campus climate right now,” McKinney said. “The Union is looking for ways to be more active in those conversations, create spaces where students feel comfortable. We're trying to foster an environment where people can have healthy conversations and debates. [Play is] a fairly easy access point for people; we feel more relaxed when we feel a sense of community with each other and can start to open up to each other a little more.”