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.

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Having Dr. Elkind, a well-known international speaker, psychologist and teacher, at a conference held at Black Creek Pioneer Village, an open-air heritage museum, is serendipitous. The village, just west of York University, overlooks Black Creek, a tributary of the Humber River.  Being there is like being transported back in time. Elkind is also the author of Giants in the Nursery: A Biographical History of Developmentally Appropriate Practice.  He has a sense of history and expertise with play and nature.


Developmentally appropriate practice, often shortened to DAP, is an approach to teaching that is grounded in the research on how young children develop and learn.  Early childhood educators know that play is the foundation for learning and play is always experiential. For early childhood educators, play is learning. In Giants in the Nursery, Elkind provides a biographical history of eleven individuals whose work has shaped early childhood education. These are the philosophers, practitioners, researchers, and theorists whom Dr. Elkind calls "Giants". Starting with John Amos Comenius (1592-1670), a prolific scholar on pedagogical, spiritual, and social reform who first recognized the educational importance of the early years, Elkind then profiles John Locke (1632-1704), Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778), Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (1746-1827), Friedrich Froebel (1782-1852), Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), Maria Montessori (1870-1952), Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), Jean Piaget (1896-1980), Erik Erikson (1902-1994), and Lev Semenovich Vygotsky (1896-1934). These Giants of DAP were pioneers in their thinking, recognizing that experience impacts learning. Taking their contributions together, Elkind suggests that the Giants recognized three conscious sources of knowledge:

  1. Experiences as a result of interacting with the natural world
  2. Experiences derived from encounters with the social world
  3. Experiences created by the individual’s own activity

Dr. Elkind will be giving two keynote addresses at The Play and Nature conference. On Friday evening, he will focus on the Giants and on Saturday, May 14th, his keynote address on play will kick off our day of playing and learning.  


In our workshops and conferences, we always support the notion of learning through playful experiences for adults and children. One of the workshops that I am most eager for is The Historical and Play Significance of Buttons. Buttons are loose parts and are an example of an open-ended experience that kept the pioneer child busy for hours, sorting, counting and more. We look forward to playing and experiencing buttons with all their beauty, novelty and learning potential. 

We hope you will join us at the Play and Nature Summit on May 13 and 14th.  Check this link for registration information 

“Play is the answer to how anything new comes about.” ~ Jean Piaget


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