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“Getting back to nature” is a phrase often relied upon by those who want to embrace a more active, outdoor lifestyle. But when it comes to child development, its usage illustrates a growing body of research about the benefits it presents to children.

“Outdoor play is crucial for children’s healthy growth, development and learning, especially regarding problem-solving and resiliency,” says Patricia Lynch-Staunton, conference coordinator and Lethbridge College Early Childhood Education faculty member.

The Child Care Director’s Association of Southwestern Alberta (CCDA) is hosting a conference this weekend at Lethbridge College titled “The Incomparable Learning Environment, Outdoor Play: There’s Nothing Else Like It." More than 225 participants are confirmed to attend. The conference begins Friday with a session just for child care directors on the Alberta Curriculum Framework Project. The main conference is Saturday with sessions on a variety of topics, including outdoor play and an update on the Health Status of Childcare Workers project.  

“For decades, the CCDA in partnership with Lethbridge College has been providing relevant professional development to early childhood educators,” says Lynch-Staunton. “This year, the focus is on an awareness of the importance of outdoor play and educator’s practice.”

Lethbridge College is proving to be an educational leader in the field of outdoor, loose parts and risky play for children. The college hosted a symposium for those involved in the field in December. In February, two faculty members joined a research excursion to Scotland to learn more about the practices in place in that country. And last week, the college hosted its first pop-up loose parts playground.

Lethbridge College faculty members Bora Kim, Julia Kunz and Sabrina Nesbit, and former faculty member Joanne Keilty are among those presenting at this weekend’s conference. Other presenters include University of Lethbridge professors Dr. Oluwagbohunmi A. Awosoga and Dr. Jon Doan.

More information about the conference is available on the Lethbridge College website.