By: Dr. Diane Kashin, RECE I am currently the volunteer chair of the York Region Nature Collaborative (YRNC). I am a retired early childhood education professor, committed to the mission of the YRNC to increase access for ALL PEOPLE OF ALL AGES to nature in York Region and beyond! During my long career in early childhood education, I have been passionate about professional learning. To that end, I have been working with YRNC so that we can offer meaningful experiences for the early learning community. I am so energized by the direction the YRNC has been taking in the past few years and grateful to Gokoomis (Grandmother) Jacque Lavalley, Oshkaabewis (Helper) Hopi Martin, and Fire Keeper Johnny Moore. It is through the relationships that we have established with the Indigenous community that we have been able to move forward in a good way offering experiences for children, families and educators. Our next conference is Land as Teacher: Renewing Relationships. This is the second time we are offering this conference and we hope to make it an annual event. This family friendly conference represents a unique professional learning experience. Not only will it help ECEs understand the importance of Land-based pedagogy and play, it will represent a response to Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, “we call upon the federal, provincial, territorial, and Aboriginal governments to develop culturally appropriate early childhood education programs for Aboriginal families”. This is an opportunity to experience Traditional Ojibwe Sunrise Ceremony, Sacred Fire, Jingle Dress Dancing, Drumming, an Anishinaabe Wigwam, a Water Walk, Spring planting, and other workshops led by Indigenous facilitators. It is our hope that this potentially transformative experience will inspire all in attendance to continue this good and important work in their own contexts. We are working on establishing a digital professional learning community through the platform Storypark so that we can stay connected as we learn on the Land with children, families and other educators. Following an Indigenous methodology that revolves around the seasons, we are offering workshops and events throughout the year. One recent participant at our winter event at the majestic Kortright Centre on February 15th, noted that it was “the most inspirational workshop I ever attended”. Another posted on Twitter, “this beautiful place which looks out over the storied valley on the Humber River - it’s a perfect place to revisit the principles that help us cycle deeper through learning, in kind relationship #landasourfirstteacher. Thank you to all in @YRNature for this day”. We are a grassroots organization with each workshop and event, funding the next offering. We hope that you will be interested in experiencing a professional learning conference that is unique and important to your own learning and to all of us moving forward in a good way. If you can join us, you can click here to register. If you are unable to join us, we hope that you will be able to make a donation to our Land as Our First Teacher educational fund. We use the funds raised to help urban Indigenous children, youth, and families reconnect to the Land. It also helps with honorariums for Elders, Knowledge Keepers and to purchase traditional medicines to be used in Ceremony during our events. Following the spring conference, we will once again be offering the Rhythm of Learning in Nature which is a nature retreat for Indigenous and non-Indigenous educators walking together on the Land to the benefit of our youngest learners. At beautiful Lake St. George we will be able to learn and play together in the Bush Early Years Centre there. I recently visited this inspiring place and it is amazing to see how it has changed from season to season. In the fall, we offer a free event for families, The Family Adventure Walk in the Forest. Our winter offering for 2021 is yet to be conceived but we know that as we move forward in a good way, the focus will present itself. For me, this is about an opportunity to create a legacy that will live on. We invite you to be a part of the YRNC legacy!
Land as Our First Teacher: Establishing and Maintaining Relationships 2019 Conference Report by Hopi Martin Last Spring, York Region Nature Collaborative (YRNC) and Toronto Region Conservation Authority shifted the focus of their annual ECE conference to make space for Indigenous leadership and approaches to early childhood education. Land as Our First Teacher: Establishing and Maintaining Relationships brought together Indigenous and non-Indigenous children, youth, educators, and families to learn from Elders and Knowledge Keepers about the importance of our children having quality relationships with Land and Community. Because systemic barriers continue to keep people from Land, this powerful act of Truth and Reconciliation could only happen with support from Lawson Foundation, The Indigenous Network, Louise Kool and Galt, Pearson Publishing, Scholar’s Choice, Wintergreen, The Silver Moccasin, Natural Learning Early Childhood Consultancy, Natural Curiosity, and York Child Development Family Services Inc. through the Bev Bernier Professional Development Fund through the creation of a Land as Our First Teacher Fund at Toronto and Region Conservation Foundation (2019 Conference Report). A special thank you to Sara Beth Martin and my kids, Gokoomis Jacque(line) Lavalley and Grandmother Vivian Recollet for their community support, Dr. Diane Kashin and YRNC, Adrian O’Driscoll and the Kortright Staff, and the Natural Curiosity Team for their individual and collective efforts to make this event possible. Thank you to Jordana Rapuch for her copy-editing in producing this beautiful document! My hope is that this event and report continues to support our collective responsibility to ‘walk together’ with Kindness and Caring for the Land and each other.
Acknowledging Land By: Hopi Lovell Martin M. A. Child Study & Education, OCTYork Region Nature Collaborative Recently, as non-Indigenous people and organizations have become aware of Truth and Reconciliation, there has been a move to begin public gatherings with a “Land Acknowledgement.” For many, this is seen as a crucial first step towards establishing respectful relationships with Indigenous peoples who have always been connected to the land. While there is no nation called “Indigenous” and it continues to mean different things to different people in different parts of the world, names like Anishinaabeg, Hodenosaunee, and Wendat, Métis, and Inuit are often collectivized to refer to peoples with specific connections to specific lands since time immemorial. While learning these names can be complex, especially since there are different names connected with different lands at different points in history, the process of learning these nuances provides valuable context and often reveals a different story than we were taught in school. Read more
For four years the York Region Nature Collaborative has been offering The Rhythm of Learning in Nature a unique five-day intensive professional learning opportunity during the summer. Last year, we decided to call the week, a knowledge retreat because the depth of our learning that occurs when we play together outside! Read more
I regret to say that when I worked with young children I did not fully embrace the opportunity to help them build nature connections. I have made that confession in a previous post. However, in the last five or six years, nature pedagogy has become both a passion and a research focus. Read more
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
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
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
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
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