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Mission:To help families and teachers protect and promote imaginative play in this way-too busy, media-filled, consumer-driven world.

Empowered by Play was founded in 2009 by teacher-turned-activist Geralyn Bywater McLaughlin, M.Ed. An early childhood educator for 25 years, she is also a mother of  twin boys. Geralyn became a play advocate in response to her classroom observations of children who were forced to grow up too quickly in the current commercialized, plugged-in culture. Compelled to become more active in the role of protecting and promoting imaginative play, she began writing and speaking out. She began the Empowered by Play to connect, inform and energize others who are in this pursuit.  Geralyn is also the director of the non-profit project Defending the Early Years (

Empowered by Play is a member of the US Play Coalition and is New York State not-for-profit.  For our director’s most current thoughts on empowering children through play check out the Empowered by Play blog.

Geralyn Bywater Photo

Board of Directors:
Deborah W. Meier
Teacher, writer, public advocate
PO Box 609
129 Hillsdale, NY 12529
Phone: 518-325-3010
Stephen Bywater
Retired CTO and entrepreneur
22 Orr-Hatch Drive
Cornwall, NY 12518
Phone: 845-518-1898
Kathy Clunis
Teacher and activist
45 Juniper Street
Roxbury, MA 02119
Board of Advisors:
Diane Levin, Ph.D.
Professor of Education, Wheelock College
Author and advocate
Karen Payne
Co-founder of Wild  Zones
Berkeley. CA

Geralyn Bywater McLaughlin, Founder and Director

Board of Directors:

Deborah W. Meier who is currently a senior scholar and adjunct professor with New York University’s Steinhardt School of Education. She is also director and adviser to Reimagining Education, and on the Board of The Coalition of Essential Schools. Meier has spent more than four decades working in public education as a teacher, writer and public advocate. She began her teaching career as a kindergarten and Head Start teacher in Chicago, Philadelphia and New York City schools. She was the founder and teacher-director of a network of highly successful public elementary schools in East Harlem. In 1985 she founded Central Park East Secondary School, a New York City public high school in which more than 90% of the entering students went on to college, mostly to 4-year schools. In 1987 she was a recipient of the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship. From 1997 to 2005 she was the founder and principal of the Bishop McGann Mercy High School, a Riverhead, NY school serving 380 children in the community. Her many books include, The Power of Their Ideas, Lessons to America from a Small School in Harlem (1995), In Schools We Trust (2002), and Many Children Left Behind (2004).

Avi Silber, M.D., FAAP who is currently the Chief of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine at the Greater Hudson Valley Family Health Center in Newburgh, NY. Dr. Silber graduated from Temple University School of Medicine and completed his residency at St. Vincent’s Hospital and Medical Center, New York, NY. He is certified by the American Board of Pediatrics. Dr. Silber was the recipient of the Jack Jacoby Award for Excellence in the Care of Cystic Fibrosis patients during his residency.

Stephen Bywater; Entrepreneur, CTO and father of five

Kathy Clunis; Mission Hill School teacher and social activist

Board of Advisers:

Diane Levin, Ph.D. who is Professor of Education at Wheelock College in Boston, Massachusetts, where she teaches a service learning course on the reconciliation process underway in schools in Northern Ireland and a summer institute on “Media Madness and Children.” She has written eight books including: So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and How Parents Can Protect Their Kids (with Jean Kilbourne), The War Play Dilemma, Teaching Young Children in Violent Times, Remote Control Childhood?. She speaks around the world on the impact of violence, media and other societal issues on children, families and schools.

Karen Payne Co-founder of Wild  Zones, Berkeley. CA

Wild Zones provides consulting services internationally to people and institutions concerned with fostering children’s free play in nature and creating intergenerational projects that build community. Karen has worked as a consultant for TAG, writer, filmmaker and workshop leader for over 25 years, focusing on issues of social and environmental justice, community development, anti-racism, violence prevention and social change philanthropy. Her book, Between Ourselves: Letters between Mothers and Daughters 1750-1982, gives a history of women’s rights issues through the letters of famous and unknown women. It was a bestseller and has been in print for over 20 years (Houghton Mifflin/Michael Joseph,1983; Picador, 1884; Virago,1995).