Walking in Place: Cultivating Ecological Identity in Young Children -- and in Ourselves: An invitation to early years educators to be outdoors in their bodies and in the body of the Earth

By Diane Kashin

The York Region Nature Collaborative (YRNC) is a new organization dedicated to enhancing experiences for children to learn in nature and to develop an ecological identity. We are grateful for the sponsorship of the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority http://www.trca.on.ca/ in providing us with the venues that support learning in nature for young children, families and educators. We launched our first event “A Family Adventure Walk in the Forest” in October 2014 and with over 200 children and their families we celebrated nature through play and inquiry at the beautiful Kortright Conservation Centre http://kortright.org/. Inspired by the day and the desire to offer more events for free for children and their families, we are planning a conference for educators – May 23rd, 2015 with the renowned author and early childhood educator, Ann Pelo. 

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Ann Pelo is a teacher educator, program consultant, and author whose primary work focuses on reflective pedagogical practice, social justice and ecological teaching and learning, and the art of mentoring. Her work is anchored by a commitment to the right of educators to be intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually engaged by their work.  Ann is nourished by teachers' commitment to growth and challenge, by children's potent capacity for questions, and by families' deep commitment to their children.  She is the author of five books: The Goodness of Rain: Developing an Ecological Identity in Young Children (2013), Season by Season the Year Unfolds: A Guidebook for Developing an Intentional Culture in Early Childhood Programs (2010), Rethinking Early Childhood Education (2008), The Language of Art: Inquiry-based Studio Practices in Early Childhood Settings (2007), and, with Fran Davidson, That's Not Fair: A Teacher's Guide to Activism with Young Children (2000).

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Ann’s work aligns with the mission and vision of the York Region Nature Collaborative. Her book, The Goodness of Rain, tells the story of the year-long journey Ann took to nurture the ecological identity of one toddler. Her experiences so eloquently transcribed inspired Ann and will inspire others to discover what it means to live in a relationship with the natural world. When I first approached Ann about being part of YRNC’s first professional conference, I told her about the concept of re-creating the family adventure walk in the forest for educators, she replied “Diane, I'm vastly energized by your vision for the conference day! Your description of the adventure walk with children is compelling; I so appreciate the journey stick as a way to carry home the day's encounters and revelations and questions. I can absolutely imagine my participation in this conference day, with an offering to begin the day, and reflections and story to close the day”.

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We invite you to join us on this day as we experience nature in a way to strengthen our capacity to “participate fully in the majesty and delicacy of the natural world” so that we can “learn alongside children how to be ecologically literate” (Pelo, 2013, p. 47).  We invite you to nurture you own ecological identity in the company of others within the backdrop of a magnificent forest of wonder and discovery. You will take away with you ideas and inspiration for the work you do with young children.

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To register for Walking in Place: Cultivating Ecological Identity in Young Children -- and in Ourselves: An invitation to early years educators to be outdoors in their bodies and in the body of the Earth we invite you to our website: http://www.yrnature.ca/events

 

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