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The right balance for healthy living for everyone through PLAY: Conversations with Jespersen & Mainella
Astroll in the park instead of going to the pharmacy has become a prescription in the U.S1. Under the D.C. parks prescription program, a growing body of scientific evidence that many of the chronic menaces of city life can be prevented or alleviated by reconnecting with nature. The U.S has an abundance of greenery, nature and mountains all in their backyard. Would an urban city like Singapore be able to have a park prescription programme? The following interviews were conducted at the GreenUrbanScape Asia Congress 2015 on November 6th. This conversation is about bringing play and nature to people - not just children and youths but adults as well and promoting healthy living through play and nature.

Jeanette Fich Jespersen is a vital part of the background research, concept development and implementation of new KOMPAN design and communication concepts. She talks in numerous seminars and conferences worldwide, on themes such as trends in urbanized lifestyles affecting families, children and play, playground policy, health and play, learning and play, social inclusion and universal design. She is a member of the steering committee and scientific committee of the European Child Friendly Cities Network and their Child in the City conferences. She is a member of the receiver's board of the Health Faculty of the University of Southern Denmark. She is the vice president of IPA Denmark.

Fran Mainella is President of Fran Mainella Consulting LLC and formerly a Visiting Scholar at Clemson University Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management. Previously, Director Mainella served nearly six years as the 16th Director and the first woman to lead the National Park Service. Fran served twelve years as Director of Florida's State Parks, which were awarded the Gold Medal Award, recognizing Florida as the best state park system in the country. She has also served as executive director of the Florida Recreation and Park Association and as president of both the National Recreation and Park Association and the National Association of State Park Directors.

  1. Free play vs. Guided & Structured play? How do you reconcile with the fact that they seem to be conflicting?

    Jeanette. J: When we talk about structured play in KOMPAN, we work with three widely recognized terms: free, guided and instructed play. Free play is when children just play and there's nobody to tell them what to do, in any surrounding, including a structured playground. As soon as guidance or instruction from an adult occur, the free play ceases to be. Play can be guided in the sense that a peer, parent or teacher assists the play activity, or be instructed by the teacher specifying the actions that should be taken. The guided and instructed play are to some extend games with rules. You cannot say which is best or more playful, but undoubtedly there are different benefits from the three types of play. The free play - as it usually doesn't involve adults - is perceived by many play advocates to be a threatened species.

    The essence of play however, does not necessarily conflict with structure and guidance. To many children today, guidance is encouragement, and they only get to play in environments supervised by adults. At KOMPAN we've worked with designing so that the play equipment can be used fully in free play, and still support the adult-child interaction which is an important part of playful learning. Fran. P: Structured play normally comes in with different ages that requires a little more structure then your other ages only because of safety and sometimes not knowing how to use the equipment but for the most part, I think Jeanette would support me on that is that we both believe that the child should be allowed to explore and find their own way. Unstructured is observing not necessarily always guiding them in other words, when I was a summer playground counselor, I will be running games - I'm guiding that play - play is still good but the unstructured when I will put out the equipment and let the children find what they want to do with that - we still set some boundaries. Unstructured play still needs boundaries and observations so I think the unstructured is still what most people who advocate for play believes in

  2. Nature vs. Technology - Is tech a pro in the face of nature?

    Fran. P: Absolutely. Play can be enhanced by the use of technology like when we go to the park. We might not always have enough rangers to do tours so you can get on your cell or tablet - it will give you different tours and interpretation experiences on the device - all by yourself. You can walk down Singapore and they (digital storytelling) will tell you the history and also tell you what vegetation you are looking at - that's very popular right now. You can also use the technology to get people into the parks like the web ranger programme2 and like other platforms such as social media. Facebook pages are great platforms to post wonderful photos of people's experiences, places they've gone and the likes. Those things will entice people to come to the parks and they all work together - the key is the balance. It's really a balance to make sure that the 53 hours screen time per week decrease3.

  3. Urban life: Similarities and Differences about Singapore and your country

    Jeanette. J: In terms of play and children in the playground, what Singapore children want in their play is much like what kids in Denmark would like in their play. Space to run around, feel free and get the physical benefits of cross body coordinating, balancing, training the spatial awareness - it's the same across the globe. The culture of upbringing is the main difference. Parental behavior strikes me as being different in Denmark and in Singapore due to the vast differences in surroundings. The Danish population lives in a more spread-out area and hasn't got the mega city that Singapore has. Culturally there is a sort of Viking belief that children need to be resilient, so in Denmark parents tend to let their children take physical risk. Singapore is the greenest beautiful mega city in the world, but it is a city with all the risks of traffic and limitation in space that this implies. I believe that big city living makes the risk averseness bigger. Parents seem to want to protect their children more. Let me finish this by saying that growing up in Singapore must be a treat: there is so much potential in the planning of the National Parks Board presented in this conference today by Mr. Yeo Meng Tong.

    Fran. P: I think the success pieces for both Singapore and the U.S is one that we can talk about - the national parks in the U.S and the green efforts amidst urbanization in Singapore - are commendable. It really draws back to the founding person of modern Singapore, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew. He had a belief 50 years ago to start greening this area. We believe in our parks - the vegetation we have in our parks that we need to take care of and making sure we keep our resources healthy. We didn't have much planting to do unlike in Singapore just because we had the forest. But it's the ability to replicate greenery, gardens in the city like the vertical garden in high rise buildings likewise we believe that we can enhance the opportunity to get this to people - much of preserving the nature there are safety concerns and especially so where nature cohabits with incoming urban life in Singapore.

    Interviewed by: Clarrie Ng


    1. https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2014/07/14/327338918/to-make-children-healthier-a-doctor-prescribes-a-trip-to-the-park
    2. https://www.nps.gov/webrangers/entry_gate.cfm
    3. https://www.whywaldorfworks.org/06_global/documents/euro-screenmedia.pdf
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