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Outland Design Landscape Architecture has pledged $10,000 to support the new Trades Training complex at the Kelowna campus; the firm has also created an annual bursary to support students in the Early Childhood Education (ECE) program.
Trades and Early Childhood Education may seem unrelated at first glance, but as Outland owner Fiona Barton explains, the gift was inspired by the College’s commitment to opening doors for a diverse array of learners.
“We’re hoping to inspire local students and would-be students to lifelong learning. The value of education for themselves and for our community is limitless,” says Barton, who is also the firm’s senior landscape architect. “The College has a growing Horticulture Certificate program, and there are many intersections with the trades in what we do, so there were lots of reasons for us to support.”
“Support from the community plays an integral role in Okanagan College’s efforts to break down barriers to education,” says Okanagan College Foundation Director Kathy Butler. “We are deeply moved by the way Fiona and her team at Outland Design have so generously invested their dollars, and their time and expertise in our students.”
The newly launched Outland Design Landscape Architecture award, valued at $750, will provide an annual boost to an ECE student entering second year of the two-year diploma program at Okanagan College.
“We wanted to highlight the important role that early childhood educators play in the Okanagan, which is what led to the creation of this award and inspired our ongoing research partnership with the College,” explains Barton.
Last year, Outland Design signed on as a community partner of a federally-funded, applied research grant exploring the benefits of outdoor play on children’s wellbeing, and how it can be tied into the training of early childhood educators.
As a mother of three, Barton saw working with the College to bring outdoor play into the lives of young learners as a natural fit, and a project that could have a long-term positive impact.
“Our goal as a design company is to create beautiful landscapes that enrich the environment,” notes Barton. “It is a natural fit for us to be involved in research that will have a positive impact on ECEs and help children grow and learn in the outdoors.”
Equipping early childhood educators is a growing area of expertise for Okanagan College. Dr. Beverlie Dietze, Okanagan College’s Director of Learning and Teaching, has been involved in researching the benefits of outdoor play in the ECE curriculum for several years. Dietze and Outland Design embarked on an outdoor play research project that was funded by NSERC in 2014-2015, and earlier this year received a research grant of $195,000 from the Lawson Foundation.
The grant will allow researchers to explore a wide range of training modules to benefit ECEs, from physical literacy to indigenous outdoor play practices, to outdoor play designs for optimal play.
“Fiona Barton and her staff are important community partners as they bring expertise in creating diverse and complex outdoor play spaces for children. These spaces contribute to triggering children’s curiosity, exploration and learning for life,” says Dietze.
The first recipient of the Outland Design award will be selected later this fall.
“Our students graduate with an in depth understanding of the benefits of well-constructed outdoor play environments to the overall development of the whole child,” explains Pam Wetterstrand, Chair of the ECE program. “We are grateful for support like this for students, and for the important research being conducted to support professional development opportunities for Early Childhood Educators.”
More information about this and other awards available at Okanagan College can be found at www.okanagan.bc.ca/financialaid.