Lethbridge College’s Early Childhood Education (ECE) program set out just over a year ago to champion outdoor play in Alberta, and the team hasn’t wasted any time. Wendy Weninger, chair of the School of Human Services, points to the college-led, invitation-only Leading Outdoor Play in Alberta Symposium Dec. 12 as sowing seeds for a much broader community effort. By bringing together decision- and policy-makers, researchers, funders and industry partners for a day with experts from Nova Scotia, Ontario and B.C., stakeholders are now creating new opportunities to promote and encourage outdoor play opportunities for children in the community.
For example, two Lethbridge College faculty members expanded their knowledge of how to create a culture of outdoor play during a week-long study tour to Scotland in February. In addition, ECE faculty and students held a loose parts playground session at Helen Schuler Nature Centre March 16, and they are working with the Lethbridge Early Years Coalition to plan an event Nov. 17 to celebrate National Child’s Day. Additional initiatives are being planned. The college also co-organized and hosted the Child Care Directors’ Association of Southwest Alberta conference on campus March 23 and 24. Over 160 delegates involved or interested in early childhood education and development were treated to sessions dedicated to aspects of outdoor play.
The program team also organized its second ECE professional development webinar series. Last year’s inaugural webinars involved participants from across Canada. This year’s series features seven webinars from March 19 to May 17, including sessions led by college instructors Bora Kim and Patricia Lynch-Staunton, and other experts from across Canada.
Weninger says next year the college will become one of the first post-secondary institutions in Canada to offer a credit course specifically on outdoor play as part of its ECE certificate program. While there are pockets of effort to encourage outdoor play across Alberta, Lethbridge College is proving to be a force — connecting, uniting and leading the charge.