Ultimate Block Party in Central Park Kicks Off National Play-Based Learning Movement

Fun-Filled October 3, 2010 Event with Prominent Artists, Scientists And Educators Will Help Showcase How Children Learn Through Play in School and Beyond

Sep 23, 2010, 12:43 ET from Play for Tomorrow

NEW YORK, Sept. 23 /PRNewswire/ -- Play is serious business.  But, unfortunately, it's also a fast-diminishing commodity for today's kids, leading to a growing crisis for future innovation and the 21st Century workforce.  Play for Tomorrow, a consortium dedicated to shedding light on the crucial role of play in children's development and education, aims to bring playful learning back to the forefront with the Ultimate Block Party.  The first "play date" in a national education movement, the Ultimate Block Party will transform the Naumburg Bandshell area of New York City's Central Park on Sunday, October 3, into the world's most innovative playground, demonstrating the power of fun and games for learning and helping to reinforce that how we play as children helps form who we become as adults.

To organize the Ultimate Block Party, Play for Tomorrow has forged close partnerships with non-profit organizations, government agencies and large corporations to underscore how play builds strong skills central to success in school and in the workplace of tomorrow.  Families with children up to age 12 are invited to come to the Ultimate Block Party and participate in playful activities and mini-master classes with leading architects, scientists, engineers, musicians, artists, inventors and business leaders from around the City, as they share a vision of learning based in scientific research – and founded in child's play.  The Children's Museum of Manhattan is the lead local organization for the Ultimate Block Party.

"The workforce of 2040 is in our schools today and we must ensure that, as a nation, we are well equipped to thrive in our global economy," said Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Ph.D, Co-Founder of Play for Tomorrow and Professor of Psychology at Temple University in Philadelphia.  "We are excited to announce our first annual Ultimate Block Party and to show families, educators, business innovators and politicians that playing is indeed learning."

"I am delighted to be the first national spokesperson for the Ultimate Block Party, where we can showcase and support the necessity of children playing to learn," said Ultimate Block Party National Co-Spokesperson Laurie M. Tisch, President of the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund. "This will be an event for children to play, create art, and explore the natural environment by using their imaginations to make up games – all in the greatest park in the world.  A perfect prescription for growing a healthy, happy and creative generation.  I can't wait until October 3!"  

Joining Ms. Tisch as Ultimate Block Party National Co-Spokesperson is New York Times bestselling children's book author, Tribeca Film Festival Co-Founder and Chairman of Turtle Pond Publications LLC, Craig Hatkoff, who also serves on the Board of Directors of the Child Mind Institute.  In partnership with The Wildlife Conservation Society, Mr. Hatkoff's latest nonfiction picture book, Leo The Snow Leopard: The True Story of an Amazing Rescue, will be released by Scholastic in October.

Emmy® Award-winning actress and mother of three Sarah Jessica Parker, the special spokesperson for the Ultimate Block Party, said "I am one of eight children.  I grew up in a home filled with chaos.  How could it be otherwise?  And I think early on we were both encouraged and taught to use our imaginations.  And our legs. Being creative, collaborative, resourceful, responsible, accountable and excited.  I realize those are adjectives that describe how I learned to play, during the most important and influential years of my life. I am proud to be a spokesperson for and to heartily support the Ultimate Block Party."

In 1981, 40% of children's time was spent in play.  By 1997, that number had shrunk to only 25%. (1)  Recent reports reveal further disturbing findings: in the last two decades, kids have lost eight hours of free play per week and 30,000 schools across the U.S. have eliminated recess to make time for more academic study – despite scientific findings that link recess to better concentration and more effective learning. (2)

Together with its partners, Play for Tomorrow is committed to building a public groundswell for the importance of play in fostering lifelong learning and to help enact change in policy and education.  The Ultimate Block Party "Playbook," a guide for parents and caregivers to be distributed at the premiere event, invites families to check off each station in which they participate and illustrates how the respective activities are based in the science of learning.  The guide also includes a workbook for parents and educators featuring fun age-appropriate play-based activities linked to healthy development and skills acquisition.  And the Ultimate Block Party in Central Park is just the beginning!  The celebration will take place annually in New York and there are already plans to launch the Ultimate Block Party in other U.S. cities and internationally.

"Beyond the Ultimate Block Party, Play for Tomorrow is developing valuable resources and tools, including Learn (LearningResourceNetwork.com), a cutting-edge web-based magazine and communications portal designed to inspire a new way of thinking about learning," said Susan Magsamen, Co-Founder of Play for Tomorrow and Director of Learn.  Learn will be announced at the October event with a future launch date.  This important new communications tool will provide parents, teachers, academics and policymakers with relevant and practical information on how children best learn and grow – and open an ongoing dialog on ways to implement this knowledge at home, in the classroom and in the community.  In addition, a beautiful and inspiring upcoming book titled Becoming: The Genius of Child's Play will reveal the joyful and purposeful moments in play that helped shape many of today's most accomplished and recognized figures.  

Play for Tomorrow was founded by a consortium led by the Temple University CiRCLE Program; University of Delaware, College of Education and Human Development; Children's Museum of Manhattan; and Learn, Johns Hopkins University NeuroEducation Initiative and Brain Science Institute.  Activity sponsorship and support for the inaugural year of the Ultimate Block Party includes The Goddard School for Early Development, RIDEMAKERZ, LEGO, Crayola and many others.  Among the education and endorsing organizations are the National Association for the Education of Young Children, the American Psychological Association, Zero to Three and the NSF Science of Learning Centers.  For a complete list of sponsors, partners and event supporters, visit www.UltimateBlockParty.com.

About Play for Tomorrow

In 2009, a small group of educators, business leaders, authors and researchers formed Play for Tomorrow to champion the importance of play in the lives of children.  Conceived as a multi-tiered social movement, the groundbreaking initiative aims to ensure that all children are provided with the competitive skills necessary to succeed in the 21st Century global economy as well as build a public dialog to underscore the value of play in fostering lifelong achievement and social, emotional and physical well being.  

Play for Tomorrow is committed to working towards affecting policy and education delivery and overcoming the disconnect between what we know about learning and how we are teaching.  The organization's mission is to change attitudes, beliefs and practices about playful learning among families, educators, child-care providers, pediatricians and policymakers.

(1) Chua-Eoan, 1999, (2) Elkind, 2009

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SOURCE Play for Tomorrow