This piece is part of our 21 Local Innovators To Watch roundup in the August 2022 print issue of District Fray. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Early childhood educator; kindergarten teacher; founder of Play Play
District Fray: Why you do what you do
Jessica Lewis: My passion for play and play-based learning started in the classroom. Play Play was created for a few reasons — to inform adults about the many social, academic, physical, and mental benefits of play and to cater to queer people who experience social anxiety and who find it hard to meet people in the nightlife scene. It was alarming the number of queer people I talked to who experience anxiety, social anxiety, stress, and depression. As an early childhood educator, advocate, and practitioner of play-based learning, I’ve seen how play is a natural facilitator in building connections, breaking the ice, and building intimacy and trust, among a host of other things. I thought it was only right to remind adults of the transformative power of play in their own lives.
How you are helping
With Play Play, I offer adults the space and opportunity to attract authentic connections, heal their inner child, and answer an intentional call to more active, nostalgic, flirty, healing, and intensely pleasurable play experiences.
Who else is helping
The beauty of leading Play Play is being able to watch the community take pride in it by supporting it in multiple ways. I like to treat it as I do the classroom. I make room for willing participants to lead, share ideas and execute those ideas. I get the best ideas, advice, and suggestions from those around me and am more than willing to tap into their strengths. I’ve also seen more people out here leading adults in play like Goombay Adventurers and The Black Girls Playground.
Where you escape in D.C.
I love to escape to the Anacostia Park trail on my bike for group and solo rides. On some Mondays, I like to escape into my favorite pastime, dancing, at Wicked Mondaze where I know I’ll see some familiar faces.
I am a huge Stan and fan girl of “Stranger Things” and Marvel lately. Our book club has read some good books in the past couple of years, but my favorites are “The Death of Vivek Oji” by Akwaeke Emezi, “All About Love” by Bell Hooks, and “The Stars and the Blackness Between Them” by Junauda Petrus. Alex Isley, Giveon, and my fave rapper Big Sean are all heavy on my playlist as I await the much-anticipated drop of the Queen herself, Beyonce.
Enjoy this piece? Consider becoming a member for access to our premium digital content. Support local journalism and start your membership today.