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June 25, 2019 June 25, 2019

Playtime in the great outdoors

Posted on April 10, 2019 by Lethbridge Sun Times
Photo submitted by FCSS OUTDOOR LEARNING: Environmental educator Christina Pickles paid a visit to Coaldale recently to facilitate a session for local educators about the importance of outdoor play. Sessions for parents were also held in Cardston, Magrath, Stirling, and in Raymond.

Submitted by FCSS
Family and Community Support Services’ (FCSS) Parenting and Family Coach Stacey Maynes, chair of the Westwind Coalition, explained the Early Years Coalitions received Early Development Instrument (EDI) results — which got the groups thinking about how to move forward. EDI is a screening tool Kindergarten teachers administer to all kindergarten-aged children province-wide.
“We got the results back from that. One of the areas we needed to work on was gross motor. We decided we wanted to have a workshop,” Maynes noted. The workshop featured information about the benefits of outdoor play, with the opportunity for professionals to get hands-on experience in the great outdoors — playing. The recent session held at The Hub in Coaldale was for educators. To encourage those working with children, aged zero to six — to get the children out to play. The session was facilitated by environmental educator Christina Pickles.
“What are some things you can do? Think outside the box and be creative. It doesn’t cost a lot of money and there’s still some small things you can do to enhance outdoor play and encourage kids to get out there to play, which is what we want. We are hoping our EDI results will go up,” Maynes added.
Maynes said professionals from day-care centres, preschools, kindergarten educators, administration and even a speech pathologist attended the one-day event. There were a total of 65 Early Years educators in attendance.
FCSS Program Manager Petra DeBow said the Early Years Connection Coalition (Lethbridge County) partnered with the Westwind Early Years Coalition to put on the outdoor play session.
“FCSS is in partnership with both coalitions,” she said, adding for this event FCSS provided the venue and staff support.
“A lot of participants said they learned great ideas,” said Maynes, adding educators can take back what they learned and use the outdoor play knowledge at schools, daycare centres, and preschools.
Recently, outdoor play sessions were held throughout the Westwind School Division area for parents to consider the benefits and value of outdoor play, examine barriers, and ponder the solutions. The interactive sessions allowed parents time to share experiences and learn together, along with time for outdoor play.
Pickles has been an environmental educator for 20 years and has worked in wetlands, badlands, forests, and streams with students of all ages. For the last five years Pickles has led the Get Outside and Play Early Childhood Network in Alberta. Sessions were held in Cardston, Magrath, Stirling, and in Raymond — prior to the just for educators session in Coaldale.
“Educators spend so much time with our children, so how can we get them thinking about outdoors? Kids learn better when they are outside. They retain information better and it’s more hands-on and engaging. How can we take what we might do inside and move it outside?” she said.
Outdoor play, according to Pickles, is an essential part of childhood. It connects children with the natural world, allows for more physical movement, contributes to a sense of place, and opens up opportunities for inquiry and emergent curriculum.
“Our role as educators in outdoor play is to provide an environment that opens up play opportunities for children that trigger their curiosity and support their learning. Everything is possible outside — children are more physically active, the natural world enters through all the senses, community connections are made, and emergent curriculum takes off,” it was stated in a recent hand-out for the parent sessions.
Pickles said she has noticed a lot of families are getting out a lot, but they come just to get new ideas on what to do outdoors and just to be re-inspired. “Because it is challenging at times to get kids outside,” she joked. “Or, sometimes it’s hard for us to get outside too. Especially when it’s been so cold.”
“It’s been in the last generation kids haven’t been getting out as much. The benefits they get is just that physical activity piece — it’s really important.”
Our kids, Pickles said, aren’t as physically active as they once were and the outdoors is a really great place where they can move differently.
“They can climb, run, and do all those things we don’t allow them to do inside. It’s very important for their physical development and it’s really a great place to connect with your community, get to know your neighbours, and develop a sense of place and belonging — which is very important for kids. Then there’s the whole nature connection. Connecting with the natural world. That’s picking the flowers and rolling in the grass and climbing the trees.”
“It’s really important for us, as humans. Our kids aren’t getting that as much as they should anymore,” she added.
FCSS would like to thank Coaldale McDonald’s for sponsoring the event with coffee and tea.

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