Mentor: Dr. Paul Grobstein
The Serendip website contains a section called the Playground, which provides visitors with an opportunity to playfully explore interactive games and exhibits concerning a variety of concepts. The top of the page contends that “playfulness is ... not only to be enjoyed but to be accorded high value for its fundamental role in the success of all organisms, including humans.", a quote from the article “Variability in Brain Function and Behavior” by Paul Grobstein. Although a link to this article is provided at the bottom of the page, the material though relevant is dense and not entirely focused on play. The site would benefit from the development of a background section focused on defending this assertion about the benefits of play in humans and other animals. In addition, many of the links and resources for further exploration about the “serious nature of play” are broken and/or dated, and revision and expansion of these resources would be useful.
My goal will be to update the Playground with more background material and resources about the nature of play. I will provide information about the crucial nature of play to the fitness of various animals and will especially use my background and interest in primatology to elucidate the link between play, learning, invention, and possibly symbolism in monkeys, apes, and humans. The resulting material will be used as a resource for the institutes this summer and for classes throughout the year, and will be available to all visitors to Serendip.