News Release
Paul Kingsmith

The latest childhood development research clearly shows the benefits and importance of unstructured outdoor play. To help move the conversation forward, Lethbridge College is bringing together industry leaders and community partners for the Visioning and Leading Outdoor Play in Alberta Symposium.

This one-day, invite-only symposium will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 12, at Lethbridge College. The day will feature seven expert speakers as well as group discussion time to help generate ideas and bring invested stakeholders closer together.

“Getting children outside is the easiest way to combat inactivity, while allowing them to explore, problem solve and be creative in their surroundings,” says Wendy Weninger, chair of the School of Human Services. “It’s a discussion that can begin in the educational environment, but it has to extend out to include government and industry partners. That’s why we wanted to bring all of these partners into the same room, to see what sort of exciting ideas and initiatives can be sparked by being creative and proactive.”

Lethbridge College is taking steps to model the recommendations about outdoor play made by the experts who will be on campus. Working closely with the Hands-On Early Learning Centre, the college’s on-campus daycare, the college is removing plastic toys from the outdoor play area, while replacing them with tactile loose parts, such as pieces of wood and pipe, to enrich children’s learning opportunities, and to promote children’s health and well-being.

“We’ve seen examples, particularly in Nova Scotia, where entire playgrounds have been converted from being a static, plastic-based environment to a flexible nature-based environment. The benefits of these changes for children were evident,” says Bora Kim, Early Childhood Education (ECE) faculty member. “At Lethbridge College, we have partnered in studies with the Lawson Foundation and Okanagan College that confirm these findings, and we are fortunate to have a willing partner in the Hands-On Early Learning Centre that is willing to take these steps to improve child development, while allowing us to continue our research.” 

The symposium is funded in part by a $5,000 grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC). Lethbridge College and the ECE team acknowledges the support and funding from NSERC which enabled this event through the successful NSERC Connect grant.

Speakers at the Visioning and Leading Outdoor Play in Alberta Symposium include:

  • Christine Alden – Lawson Foundation program director
  • Dr. Mariana Brussoni – University of British Columbia associate professor and B.C. Children’s Hospital Research Institute investigator
  • Peter McCracken - Fundy Region (Nova Scotia), Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage – Communities, Sport and Recreation Division regional manager
  • Dr. Beverlie Dietze – Okanagan College Director of Learning and Applied Research
  • Bora Kim – Lethbridge College Early Childhood Education faculty member
  • Cheryl Hatten - Lethbridge College Early Childhood Education faculty member
  • Tobi Horon – Hands-On Early Learning Centre owner/director