Sarah Lytle, Ph.D. (Executive Director)
Sarah Lytle, Ph.D., is the Executive Director of the Playful Learning Landscapes Action Network (PLLAN). She comes to PLLAN after a decade at the University of Washington’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences, where she was most recently the Director of Outreach and Education.
Sarah is an expert in child development and has conducted research on language development and children’s interactions with screen media. She has more than a decade of experience in connecting science to practice, working extensively with parents, early learning providers, and policymakers to promote evidence-based interactions with children.
Sarah has a B.A. in Psychology and Spanish from the University of Notre Dame and a Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from Temple University. She was a 2014-2016 Zero To Three Fellow, a 2016-2019 member of the Children and Youth Advisory Board in King County, WA, and she has served on the Seattle Educare Advisory Council and Woodland Park Zoo’s Early Childhood Advisory Committee.
Sarah lives in Seattle with her husband and their English Bulldog, Norman. She loves to cook, visit local breweries, and kayak on the Puget Sound. The greatest compliment Sarah ever received was “you must have played well as a child.”
Julia Miller (Program Manager)
Julia Miller is the Program Manager of the Playful Learning Landscapes Action Network. As a former play-based learning specialist, Julia is committed to helping support projects that that lead to high-quality education without barriers to success through play-based best practices.
Her philosophy of education has derived from the belief that all children deserve a stimulating social-emotional, sensory-oriented, and academic environment where every child can grow physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially in a playfully conducive setting. This vision was influenced by her year-long Fulbright Scholar research grant in Helsinki, Finland, where she researched the effects of play-based learning in early childhood by way of a Finnish social-emotional environment. When Julia returned to the U.S in 2019, she was able to secure a grant to turn a charter school storage room into a play-based classroom. Julia’s self-created program, Just Play, operated out of the grant-awarded playspace in North Philadelphia.
Using design and evidence-based principles from her play space, she received the Play Everywhere Philly grant from KABOOM! and the William Penn Foundation. As part of this grant, she led community engagement efforts to create playful learning installations along sidewalks and vacant parcels, beginning with five sites in North Philadelphia previously known as The Play District.
Julia holds an Urban Education Master’s Cert from the University of Pennsylvania and a B.A. in International Education and Music Business from Albright College in Reading, Pennsylvania where she served as the President of the class of 2013. In 2015, she completed her commitment to Teach for America as K-1 classroom instructor at a charter school in North Philadelphia. Julia loves to sing, read, paint, and explore her new neighborhood in South Philadelphia.
Ellen Oatis (Program Associate)
Ellen Oatis is the Program Associate for the Playful Learning Landscapes Action Network. With a background as a literacy specialist and educator, she is devoted to promoting playful learning initiatives. Ellen understands the importance of play-based education in fostering connections within families and communities, and she is deeply committed to making education accessible to all children.
Ellen holds a B.S. in Early and Middle Childhood Education from The Ohio State University. She has collaborated with the Columbus Metropolitan Library to enhance the Ready for Kindergarten and Play to Learn programs. Fuelled by her passion for literacy, Ellen established a cross-district pen-pal program that connected elementary school students from diverse backgrounds. Before joining the Playful Learning Landscapes team, Ellen shared her love of literacy with her students in a Title 1 school.
Currently residing in Columbus, Ellen enjoys the company of her two cats, Winston and Willow. She has a love for travel, gardening, and actively supports her local MLS team, the Columbus Crew.