Call for Workshop Presenters

Call for Workshop Presenters for the Pedagogy of Play in Nature!  Read more

The Benefits of Physical Activity in Nature

Think back to a time you went for a walk in a park or in a forest. Did you breathe in the fresh air and feel tension leave your body?There’s growing evidence that trees, plants and blue skies create an environment that decreases stress, improves mental health and lowers the risks for chronic diseases. 1, 2 Being active in nature can make you happier, healthier and more relaxed!    Read more

Planning Nature Programs in Early Childhood Education

Recently I was asked to speak at a gathering of early learning providers about the availability of nature programs in York Region.  I will be reporting both good news and bad news.  Starting with the bad, I will relate that to the best of my knowledge, most outdoor education centres in our area focus on older children but I will let them know about the Kortright Centre and their forest school programs as one option. The pickings are slim but the good news is that it is easy to plan your own nature programs in early childhood education.  It involves a three part planning process.  Find nature.  Add children.  Mix.  The end result will be happy children.  Read more

Guelph-Humber ECE Students Take on Nature!

On March 7, 2016, members of York Region Nature Collaborative had the pleasure of meeting four students from the Early Childhood Studies program at the University of Guelph-Humber.  Adriana Mercuri, Melissa Pohland, Alisha ParJohn and Karandeep Singh were led on a hike by YRNC's chair, Diane Kashin, along the Oak Ridges Moraine in Richmond Hill, with stops at the Swan Lake Centre for Innovation and Conservation, as well as at Lake St. Field Centre.  At Lake St. George, the group also met with Nicole Hamley, teacher and YRNC Executive Committee member (Communications).  Here is what the students shared after their experiences with us: Read more

Forest School Adventures at Kortright

On February 1st, we had the privilege of working with volunteer Tanya Murray (OCT and Forest School Practitioner), as well as an incredible group of 9 students for our 3rd PA Day Forest School at Kortright. We had blue skies, happy children, and 555 acres of forest...it was a recipe for exploration, inquiry, and FUN! We split into two groups, and started out on our first journey of the morning. One group took a stroll through the forest stopping at some newly fallen trees, to investigate their interesting patterns, textures and CITIES! The students decided that the wood left behind on the tree stump looked like a miniature city, one child exclaimed “This tall part is the CN Tower”, so we collected some leaves, rocks, and ramps (you always need a motorcycle ramp) to expand our newly developed forest world!  Read more

Tracking Animals

There was a time when being able to effectively identify and follow tracks of animals was a critical skill for survival.  Knowing which animals were in the area and learning their habits through the evidence they left behind could mean the difference between life and death – setting traps in areas where prey animals were abundant and avoiding areas that were home to animals that could hunt and kill you. This ancient art has since declined in our fast-paced, urban environment where we are increasingly reliant on others to do the hunting and gathering for us and the local grocery store is the furthest we have to travel to acquire almost any food imaginable. Some foods travel thousands of kilometers, coming from as far as the other side of the world. Many meats are “grown” and harvested in factory-like farms and shipped long distances before they are purchased and consumed. The food systems we now have in place seem to make the entire notion of tracking animals obsolete and irrelevant in today’s technologically advanced environment. Read more

The Nature of Experience and "The Play and Nature Summit 2016"

Experiential learning, and especially the experience of learning in nature, is something the York Region Nature Collaborative supports and demonstrates in our mission to empower the early learning communities of York Region and beyond to engage meaningfully with nature on a daily basis. To engage meaningfully is quite simply, to play. David Elkind, author of The Power of Play: How Spontaneous, Imaginative Activities Lead to Happier, Healthier Children, sees play as one of the three essential elements to make for a harmonious life, the other two being to love and to work.  This is an important message for everyone - adults and children alike - but especially for parents and educators. We are thrilled that Dr. Elkind will be a featured speaker at our next professional learning conference, The Play and Nature Summit at Black Creek Pioneer Village in Toronto, Ontario on May 13 and 14th, 2016.        Read more

Have You Heard of Geocaching?

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of joining Diane Kashin and Tanya Murray from the York Region Nature Collaborative, along with Lisa Brown from Tir na Nog Forest School, on a visit to Forest School Canada in Ottawa to meet with Marlene Power.  We opted to take a hike through the beautiful Wesley Clover Park, home to Ottawa’s Forest and Nature School.  While we were chatting, I took out my phone, launched an app, and used the on-screen compass to lead us to this little treasure hidden in the woods.             Do you know what this activity is called?  Geocaching!  In simplest terms, I like to think of it as using multi-million dollar satellites to find Tupperware containers in the forest but it’s about much more than that!  It’s about getting outside, being active, and using this fun-filled treasure hunt to explore and connect with nature!   Read more

Forest and Nature School in Canada: Growing a Movement

Social movements are characterized by a group of people who get together to advance their shared ideas, intended to bring about change.  The York Region Nature Collaborative is working to be a part of the movement that helps bring back outdoor play and nature experiences to childhood because as Frost (2009) relates “during the short span of three or four decades, centuries-old freedom to play has evolved into a play and play environments crisis that threatens the health, fitness and welfare of children”.  With our partner, Toronto and Region Conservation, we recently hosted Forest School Canada’s practitioner’s course at the beautiful Lake St. George Field Centre.  We are proud of our small part in this movement and we will look for ways to continue to support the growth so that we as a society create more opportunities for active play. The recently published Position Statement on Active Outdoor Play has solidified this mission to grow the movement. Read more

Walking and Learning in Place: Developing Ecological Identities by Being in Place with Others

On May 23, 2015, the York Region Nature Collaborative hosted our first professional conference, Walking in Place 2015, at the beautiful Kortright Centre for Conservation.  We were inspired to put on this event after the success of our Family Adventure Walk in the Forest at Kortright in October of 2014, which will now be an annual event (keep an eye out for the registration link but mark your calendars now – it will be on October 18, 2015).   When we were thinking of a featured speaker for our conference, we thought that Ann Pelo, author of The Goodness of Rain, would be perfect inspiration for educators.  After we saw how incredible the beauty of Kortright was for children and their families, we wanted to bring the same experience to educators.   Ann started the day with an inspirational keynote and we followed by taking ourselves to walk through this magical place, stopping here and there to experience the clay creatures, campfire, small worlds, dens, nature mandalas, flowers, plants, magic spots and journey sticks. You can get a sense of place and our time in it through the #WIP2015 tweets from the day, storified here. Read more

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