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I am an early childhood educatior who has, as a result of my training, always valued play as a way of teaching and learning for young children. My committment to the necessity of play deepened tremendously 3 years ago when I took a job after Hurricane Katrina with the Mississippi State University Early Childhood Institute and met the founder of Project Joy in Boston. My job was to find an intervention that child care providers and teachers could be trained to implement with children who had suffered the trauma of the storm. I wanted a program that would be centered on play because, as Fredrick Froebel proposed, I believe play is the way in which children make their internal world external and their external world internal. Play would be the way they made sense of the horrors of the storm. I also wanted a program that would address the mental health needs of the caregivers because they had to be able to cope themselves before they could help children. After hearing of Project Joy through a professional contact, I connected with Steven Gross the founder of Project Joy. He presented to me by phone this remarkable exuberant, physical play intervention that he had been using in Boston since 1989. It was one of those illuminating moments when I knew I had found not only an amazing program, but also a person in Steve who had a perceptive understanding of the power of play to heal not only children, but also adults. We immediately put a plan into place to begin to train teachers across the Mississippi Gulf Coast in the programs of Project Joy. The response from teachers has been phenomenal. They love the training, and request to return time after time. The training doesn't simply tell about the program, it engages the teachers in the same robust, exuberant play designed to be used with children. It calls upon teachers to cosider their own joyfulness and how they participate in self-care. The training engages teachers in the process of creating their own joyful, playfulness plan. My involvement with Project Joy has prompted me to seriously examine my own joyfulness and playfulness. My efforts to become more playful have changed my personal outlook on life and has created within me a great value for living in the present and cultivating playful interactions with my family and friends. This work is so rewarding, and MSU Early Childhood Institute is currently working to find funding to train teachers throughout the state of MS. We have trained over 300 teachers in the state and have provided follow-up assistance to insure teacher comfort and competence in implementing the program. We have recently completed a small study to atempt to determine the effectiveness of the program toward social/emotional development of young children and are in the process of analyzing the data. There is also a documentary in the editing process about the work of Project Joy in Mississippi. You can find additional information about Project Joy at and film info at Attached is a picture of PJ trainees playing cooperative musical chairs during one of the training sessions. Thanks so much for your attention to play through today's show and through the blog reflecting the host's interest in this topic. Play is an essential part of a healthy life, and we absolutely must return play to childhood if we want to nurture whole, and healthy people. Thanks,
Pamela Myrick-Mottley
Mental Health Technician
Misssissippi State University Early Childhood Institute