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

Learning and Development in the Forest: Inspiration from Reggio Emilia

As a Reggio-inspired and Forest School-influenced educator of adults, I am finding the connections between these two great traditions to be inspiring to my practice.  Reflecting on the connections has deepened my understanding of theory as it relates to practice. Read more

Scaffolding Learning in Early Childhood Environmental Education

"Exploring nature with your child is largely a matter of becoming receptive to what lies around you. It is learning again to use your eyes, ears, nostrils, and finger tips, opening up channels of sensory impression" - Rachel Carson. It is the mission of the York Region Nature Collaborative (YRNC) to support adults to become learning partners with children in nature. Rachel Carson ( wrote about her adventures in nurturing children’s connection with nature in 1962 in an article entitled Help Your Child to Wonder.  Posthumously published in 1965 as The Sense of Wonder, her experiences with her very young great nephew reminds me of Ann Pelo’s Goodness of Rain: Developing an Ecological Identity in Young Children.  The YRNC is thrilled to be welcoming Ann to our sold out event, Walking in Place: Cultivating an Ecological Identity in Young Children and Ourselves on May 23rd. We are continually looking for more opportunities to support our mission and looking forward to a future filled with many more workshops and events.   Read more

The Pedagogy of Place in Early Childhood Education

Children’s lives are shaped by the places they inhabit. As early childhood educators and teachers of young children recognize the significance of place-based education, experiences and opportunities for learning in and with nature will expand. Place-based education is the process of using the local community and environment as a starting point to learning in all areas of the curriculum. Emphasizing hands-on, real-world learning experiences, this pedagogical approach helps children to make a stronger connection to the natural world in a way that will increase environmental stewardship. Read more

Memories of a family day in the forest

On a beautiful but cold fall day in October, many families gathered at Kortright Centre to enjoy an adventure in the forest. The joy, excitement and learning was captured beautifully by Colleen Campbell. Read more


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