Advocating for Play in Adult Programming

Have you ever been intimidated to take a math or science course? Does infectious disease epidemiology, physics or calculating derivatives sound like fun? Mostly no...BUT what if we explored epidemiology through an interactive game of zombie apocalypse and physics through a game of giant beer pong? Calculating the speed and arc of your bounce shot is hard core physics but sounds like more fun. Play is for adults too! Research has identified that many of the understood benefits of play for children still hold true in adulthood. Playing is how we connect to each other, build community, express creativity and learn.

Carnegie Science Center has been incorporating play into its adult programming and here are 4 good reasons why:

1) Break the stigma of STEM fields. We often put things we don’t understand on a pedestal. Whether it’s biology, chemistry or physics, adding a game or element of play to the topics helps break down the barrier that typically makes scientific concepts seem foreign and unattainable. Once we break the stigma science is too hard or too boring, we can introduce “intimidating” concepts like calculating the parabolic trajectory of your beer pong shot. Framing physics lessons through giant beer pong can help shift the perspective on one’s ability to learn the subject.

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2) Encourage adults to act less adult. If there’s one thing adults hate more than failure, it’s failure in front of other adults. Since there are no subscribed learning objectives in play, it dramatically reduces the pressure around the option of failure. Children frequently engage in this type of free play which has been shown to aid in healthy brain development. As adults, engaging in free play helps the brains build new circuits and strengthen old ones. Strengthening these circuits in late adulthood are particularly useful in keeping a sharp mind.  

3) Engage and connect visitors. In an increasingly digital world, connecting visitors with real life interactions (which happen to be playful and fun) strengthen our museum's relationship with the community. Our adult programs create an environment to network, learn and play.

4) Inspire continued learning and advances in STEM fields. Play helps us engage in the dreams that create the discoveries of tomorrow. Learning is a lifelong journey. Too often adults stagnate and settle into a comfort zone. Creative and imaginative play are the stepping stones to exploring the future of STEM.

If you’re looking for an adult place to play check out 21+ Night at Carnegie Science Center. Once a month the doors are reopened after hours for a themed party just for adults over the age of 21. With no children around, we bring out riskier science, invite innovative partners from the community and turn up the excitement with games, music and free reign in the exhibit galleries. If you can’t make it to our museum, find ways to incorporate play into your workspace. Puzzles, card games or adult coloring books are easy options for introducing play into your schedule.

Wake up, be an adult and go play!

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