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Exploring the Nature of Play

Nestled in the heart of Lethbridge’s River Valley, the Helen Schuler Nature Centre is showcasing the importance of play. The Nature of Play exhibit guides participants along a series of interactive activities designed to show how play is different than other physical and mental activities.

“As people move through the stations, they're not only engaging in play but they're also learning what defines play as play,” says Coreen Putman, Helen Schuler Nature Centre Manager. “As you move along, you'll learn about some of the social benefits, some of the physical benefits, the mental and the emotional benefits that happen as people of all ages engage in play.”

In 2018, the City of Lethbridge formally endorsed the Lethbridge Play Charter, acknowledging the role of play in fostering human development. Created by Lethbridge Plays, a coalition of local stakeholders sharing a belief in the value and benefits of play, the Charter underscores a collective commitment to prioritizing play for all.

“Prior to 2018, few people really knew what a Play Charter was or why it's important,” says Vicki Hazelwood, University of Lethbridge Research Associate.. “And since then, Lethbridge Plays has been working collaboratively with over 30 organizations and stakeholders in the community to create play resources, host workshops and play summits, and build awareness about the importance of play.”

Young students are also benefiting from the display. The Power of Play, an exhibit-focused fieldtrip, meets Alberta curriculum objectives for students in Grades 2 to 4 . While skill development in areas such as physical literacy and dexterity were expected outcomes, there have also been surprising benefits.

“A lot of this stuff falls under computer science, believe it or not,” says Taylor Hecker, Helen Schuler Nature Centre Program Leader.. “Things like following instructions or using creativity for problem solving or working together as a group. Those are actually part of the computer science curriculum and even though there's no computers involved, those are still skills that they're developing.”

Originally scheduled to end in March, the sustained popularity of The Nature of Play will see the exhibit extended until the end of June.

Watch a video on the Nature of Play here.

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