Courtesy of Debbie Jung ‘23

"Big Red Beads" engages students in recreational activities.

May 7, 2023

Bracelets and Bubbles: Undergraduate Leads Initiative for More “Play Spaces” on Campus

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As final exam season approaches, it is common for students to experience stress while on campus. To encourage students to take a break from studying and return to their childlike sense of curiosity, Debbie Jung ’23 has spearheaded a new campus initiative.

“I think college students need to engage in more play,” Jung said. “Especially because this is a stressful place… and people lose that playfulness or that childlike curiosity through which they view the world.” 

To help students do that, Jung — a design and environmental analysis major in the College of Human Ecology — has begun a “Play Spaces” initiative on campus. Jung held her second “Big Red Beads” event of the semester on May 2.

At 9 a.m. that morning, Jung decked a table outside the Temple of Zeus with lettered beads, charms and string. The table, which Jung also put together on April 19, was well visited by Cornell students. 

“I’m always a big fan of any arts and crafts activities because I feel like it’s not something that you get to do on your own because it requires a lot of supplies,” Sarah Fleischman ’23 said. 

“It’s a good break in the day from work.” 

Jung received funding for her bracelet making initiative from The Contribution Project, which annually provides students with $400 for any project that benefits the Cornell community. Originally, Jung applied to fund tree swing installations across campus, aiming to enhance student wellbeing by making campus a more “playful and active space,” but she said her proposal did not pass Cornell’s risk management team. She then began brainstorming other ways to foster play and landed on bracelet-making. 

“I feel like beads are a cool medium because you’ll see people putting inside jokes or their names [on their bracelets],” Jung said. “The manufacturer provides the [lettered] beads, but all the words are very personal … it’s just more meaningful.” 

Jung also touched on how her DEA major is part of what inspired her initiative for the project. 

“My major is about how the built environment impacts human health and well being,” Jung said. “These [installations] aren’t really things that you would expect to see in an atrium or outdoors or in a library. There’s [an] element of surprise… [an installation] can create a sense of excitement in someone’s day.” 

Jung’s play-centered project will expand to involve bubble wands on May 8.

“I’m going to install [free bubble wands] around a few places on campus,” Jung said. “I’m thinking in front of AAP, [at the] A.D White statue in front of Goldwin Smith [and] in front of Willard Straight… I bought 180 bubble wands, so [the] 180 students that see them first will get them.”

Before the semester ends, Jung plans to organize two more bracelet making events — the first in Martha Van Rensselaer Hall on Tuesday, May 9 and the second in Olin Library sometime during finals week. 

Going forward, Jung hopes that students will continue her initiative to facilitate play on campus. 

“People have different definitions of play,” Jung said. “You can be playful just by running around the Arts Quad, or playing with a ball, too. But this is very intentional placemaking. These installations are not something you have to register for — you just kind of run into [them] and [they’re] free — people like free things.”

The play Jung continues to cultivate on campus is ultimately fueled by nostalgia, with students such as Emmanuella Sarpong ’23 saying that the event reminded her of her childhood hobbies.

“It’s very stress relieving, bringing me back to my childhood, allowing me to just do something without thinking,” Sarpong said. “I think this is really awesome. We should keep it up at Cornell.” 

Annina Bradley ’26 is a Sun contributor and can be reached at [email protected].