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Major funding announced for College research project advocating childhood outdoor play
Okanagan College Media Release

Advancing Early Childhood Educators’ (ECE) training curricula to include the benefits of unstructured outdoor play for children’s wellbeing is no child’s play for Dr. Beverlie Dietze, Okanagan College’s Director of Learning and Teaching, it’s serious work that just received a significant national funding boost.Beverlie Dietze Dec 2013

On Jan. 7, the Lawson Foundation announced funding for 14 projects across Canada as part of its $2.7 million Outdoor Play Strategy. Dietze, who is leading the Okanagan College project with valuable education partners including Dr. Diane Kashin from Toronto’s School of Early Childhood Studies at Ryerson University, faculty at Lethbridge College in Alberta and at Northern College in Ontario, the Justice Institute of British Columbia and the Canadian Child Care Federation received a $195,000 grant to develop a specialized training model for ECEs about children’s outdoor play that can be delivered in person or online, at no cost to participants.

“Our research leading up to now has shown a serious gap across the country in accessible and affordable training about the immense benefit outdoor play has on children’s development,” said Dietze. “Our aim is to provide the tools and necessary knowledge about outdoor play discovery and learning that will encourage those teaching our children to make it a priority in their programming.”

The project will develop 12 three-hour modules that will cover topics including: open space, intelligent materials, physical literacy, indigenous outdoor play practices, risk taking, accessibility, and diversity in children’s outdoor play needs. It is aimed at 400 current ECEs working in childcare centres in Alberta, British Columbia, and Ontario, as well as ECE faculty at Canadian post-secondary institutions in order to help propel the training of the future labour force.

“We are always proud to exemplify how Okanagan College contributes to the advancement of Canadian post-secondary education by innovation in teaching methods,” said Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton. “Beverlie’s accomplishment with developing this project demonstrates how we achieve our commitment to excellent teaching, programming and applied research.

“We thank the Lawson Foundation for their support in making this project a reality through this important funding contribution,” expressed Hamilton.

“Ultimately, our collective goal is to get children outside to play, imagine, and explore,” explains Dietze. “Outdoor play has been proven to boost children’s overall health and wellness, academic performance, self-esteem and connections to environmental aesthetics and sustainability.”

Among 263 national letters of intent received by the Lawson Foundation, 12 proposals were selected to be a part of the strategy, plus an additional two proposals that were previously funded complete the group of 14. The projects were chosen based on their interest in exploring unstructured outdoor play that encourages kids to take risks, demonstration of being early adopters in the belief of outdoor play benefits, and examples of expertise in the subject.

Dietze has been recognized as a leading Canadian research expert in the field of outdoor play as part of early childhood education. Recently she worked with landscape architects in the Okanagan to innovate new playground spaces and with the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness supporting their outdoor play agenda. Her articles have appeared in a number of educational journals, and her first textbook
Foundations of Early Education (2006) was the first Canadian-authored ECE textbook focused on children’s outdoor play spaces.

For additional details about the Lawson Foundation’s Outdoor Play Strategy visit
www.lawson.ca/outdoorplay.