Students at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) are experiencing different recreational activities from around the globe thanks to Recreation and Wellness’ (RecWell) Spring 2023 Well-being Initiative called Passport to Play.
The program allows students to explore the cultures of other countries through events held at the Rec Center over the course of the semester like Mosaic Flower Pot Making from Europe, Children’s Games from Africa and Bocce Ball from Italy.
Ashley Cox, the Wellness Programs coordinator, said the idea first came from a Stress Less group in the spring of 2022. The group was focused on discovering individualized and personal differences between play and leisure and engaging in new activities for stress-reduction.
“As traveling for pleasure and increasing quality of life seems to be important to students at this time, Passport to Play was created as a specific approach for engaging in leisure and play as stress-buster activities,” said Cox. “The approach includes participants engaging in activities from across the globe with a developed educational component for increasing cultural awareness and understanding.”
Cox said the biggest highlight of the initiative thus far is the lantern-making event ran in conjunction with the Asian American Association on campus. Students explored different ways of making lanterns and learned their cultural significance alongside their friends.
“Another highlight was New Zealand Weaving, as one participant traveled to New Zealand for a past educational experience and had knowledge of weaving,” said Cox. “During our event, she engaged in familiar activities from the past and verbalized happiness in discussion about the country and time there. This was a priceless experience from RecWell’s view, as she was able to take a break from her academic demands and engage in positive nostalgic activities to enable joy, decrease stress and encourage creativity.”
Passport to Play Details and Goals
The Rec Center room that holds the events has multiple components to assist in making a more immersive sensory experience for attendees. Cox said features consist of visuals through videos from the country on a large TV, use of local music for auditory stimulation, authentic snacks for tasting and activity-engagement for a hands-on, tactile experience.
As a way to capture travel destination locations, RecWell provided participants with a faux passport and stamp with the continent where the cultural activity takes place.
Whoever participates in eight out of 10 activities will be in the running for a grand prize of a Travel’s Essentials Kit that includes important items to stay safe and healthy while traveling. All participants, no matter how many events they attend, can submit their punch cards and passports at the end to gain a smaller prize.
“Passport to Play enables an environment for students to explore tools, materials and space, feel curiosity again, facilitate wonder through new experiences, and have fun,” said Cox. “RecWell believes it’s important for students to learn about recreational activities different from their typical life experiences.”
Cox said RecWell developed Passport to Play to:
- Increase cultural awareness.
- Develop new activity skillsets.
- Participate for stress relief.
- Develop social connections through group activities.
- Create through spontaneous activities outside of the norm.
Feedback and Takeaways
Cox said the response from students has been positive thus far with many describing their appreciation of time and space dedicated to these cultural activities. Robert Simels, the associate director of Student Life, said RecWell has also seen success by collaborating with cultural student clubs on campus.
“RecWell wanted to make sure we were including our student body and our culturally-based student organizations to help with the program ideas and have a platform to educate the TCNJ community about the culture their club celebrates,” said Simels. “This setting allowed the clubs to present these activities in a safe environment and connect with other students around diverse, healthy and valuable experiences.”
Cox said partnering with students and keeping an open mind is essential to the success of creating prosperous, creative programs in campus rec.
“Know the schedule of students’ main activities and classes,” said Cox. “Balance general free time with specific facility use where there is high foot traffic. Time and greater visibility on campus through marketing, word of mouth and interdepartmental support is always essential.”
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