At our June Staff Meeting, Mr. Blatz, Mrs. Freeman and Mrs. Gordon shared some of their experiences and reflections from their professional development journey to New Zealand. Staff enjoyed seeing photos of the different centres in New Zealand, hearing about cultural differences, unique practices and equipment and reflecting on how new and interesting ideas could be brought to Discovery.
New Zealand’s culture is one that places tremendous value on being outdoors which is reflected in the design and curriculum of their early learning centres. In fact, New Zealand centres operate under the regulation that children must have access to outside environments 100% of their time spent in care.
Mr. Blatz spoke on the idea of “play affordance” and how the more children experience the outdoors whether in a developed nature play ground or even better in an undeveloped natural area such as a forest, positively affects a child’s social, emotional and physical wellbeing. Statistics show that children in a typical Canadian early learning program spends 95% of their time inside, 5% of time outside at a playground and no time beyond the borders of a playground. It is this “beyond” time that has the greatest play value and offers children the greatest opportunity for creativity and growth. Did you know that when asked, 30% of eight year children will say their fondest memory is of time spent outside with an adult? This speaks to the importance of children spending time in the great outdoors when they are young, rather than sitting in front of a screen.
Looking at this data, the Discovery staff have been presented with the challenge of further increasing time spent outdoors to 50% which includes time spent “beyond”. Discovery’s outdoor environment is considered the children’s “outdoor classroom” and staff have been encouraged to look at it with fresh eyes for inspiration on how to use the different areas in new and exciting ways. Collaboration will play a big part in Discovery’s pedagogy as the different programs (both children and adults) work together to make this summer another exciting adventure!
What can parents do to help with this adventure?
Remember back to your childhood and think about what you liked doing best. What were some of your favourite outdoor activities? Feel free to share these memories with your child’s teacher and they may be used as inspiration for a play experience with the children.
Bring us loose parts! Tires, wood planks, lengths of eaves trough etc. for the adventure playground. The children’s creativity and imagination is endless when presented with this kind of open ended material!
We are all looking forward to summer, taking on this challenge and learning together on our new journey!