When is the last time you were told to go outside and play?

In early April, the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative, in partnership with UCLA Recreation and UCLA Transportation, launched a weekly event to bring the campus community together in a “big” way.  

The fun and games break, which runs Thursdays from 12 to 1 p.m. in the Court of Sciences, located in the south part of campus, has been attracting students, staff, faculty members and campus visitors who strategize over giant games of chess and Jenga, play with parachutes and skillfully throw bean bags into holes cut into angled boards. Nearby, student musicians perform, sharing their talents as part of Mindful Music, which offers free weekly concerts on campus to help support relaxation.

On May 1, the Healthy Campus Initiative will hold a special event highlighting these activities and the importance of community and spending time with your classmates and colleagues. The event, scheuduled to go from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Court of Sciences, will feature the weekly assortment of games, free food from LocoL and Veggie Grill, prizes and fitness assessments. In addition, a variety of campus organizations, including UCLA Staff Assembly, the Student Wellness Commission and Mindful Ambassadors, will be on site sharing information about their programs and resources. The event will also feature goat yoga, an activity that is popping up all over in which people practice yoga in the presence of and, in many cases, with the assistance of goats.

The Court of Sciences was selected as the location to launch these types of activities because although it’s a heavily trafficked area that many people pass through each day, it hasn’t inspired much leisure use, said Renee Fortier, executive director of UCLA Events and Transportation and co-leader of the initiative’s BeWell pod, one of seven thematic working groups that make up the Healthy Campus Initiative.

BeWell collaborates with campus and community leaders to identify, plan and implement best practices for a healthy built environment by creating create clean, sustainable campus spaces that facilitate safe and active transportation, integrate physical activity into everyday life, reduce stress and promote social engagement.

Fortier added that UCLA Transportation has funded the installation of tables and chairs, and a Soofa bench that allows users to charge their phones as they sit and relax. The outdoor furniture will be added to the Court of Sciences in May.

“We need to use some of our underutilized areas and reclaim them for healthy and relaxing activities,” said Fortier, noting how critical it is for people to get outside for some mirth and to connect with people in engaging ways. “People sometimes become isolated with their use of electronic devices and in the stresses of their daily lives, so our goal is to help bring people together. Playing is fun, but it’s also good for you.”

The UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative, envisioned and supported by philanthropists Jane and Terry Semel, will host its annual celebration May 9 in Pauley Pavilion. The event, which begins with pre-program festivities from 4:30 to 6 p.m. followed by the main event from 6 to 7:30 p.m., is open to the public and highlights the importance of social well-being. Guests will have the opportunity to listen to panel discussions featuring a variety of people, including Chris Meledandri, CEO of Illumination Entertainment, and UCLA psychology professor Martie Haselton, author of “Hormonal,” live performances, an awards presentation, free food, prizes and giveaways. Tickets are free to the first 1,000 people who RSVP.