Battlefords Early Childhood Community Planning Network hosted an Early Years conference with a focus on nature, “Think Outside, No Box Required!”
Renowned Canadian Nature Play experts Adam and Jill Bienenstock were the presenters of the workshop and they did not disappoint their audience of more than 80 participants. Participants came from as far away as Saskatoon, Nipawin and La Loche.
Following a blessing given by Elder Gladys Wapass Greyeyes, the day opened with a keynote address on “12 Ways To Naturalize Your Playground” that was delivered by Adam. He emphasized children need to experience and connect with nature for at least two hours every day through all seasons. Children need logs to pile, stack, climb and balance on, soil and sand to dig in, water to pour and spray, sticks and branches to build with, trees to explore in, hills to run and roll down and natural loose parts like leaves, pinecones, seeds, and shells to create with. He encouraged participants to let children discover the natural world using their senses, and yes, even let them get dirty!
Following the keynote and despite the crisp, cool air, participants were engaged in two break out sessions. Adam spoke on “Getting Past the Grownups” cumulating with a hands-on activity where agency members formed groups and had the chance to design and build a natural playground. Adam circulated and offered advice and answered questions about their outdoor playground representations.
Jill’s topic was “Back To Nature.” In her outdoor session, participants circulated through stations where they created using natural loose parts, manipulated river rocks, built with sticks and made mud pies. It was clear to all that nature provides children with rich learning experiences in math, language arts, science and arts education as well as develops social skills and fine and gross motor skills.
Adam and Jill were passionate and enthusiastic about connecting children to nature. The husband and wife duo left a lasting impression of inspiring and encouraging everyone to let children just “be” in nature.
An outdoor family event was also held at Finlayson Island in the evening prior to the workshop. Children and their families enjoyed spending quality time in nature.
The planning and preparation committee consisted of representatives from Battlefords Early Childhood Intervention Program, Battlefords Family Resource Network, Cognitive Disability Strategy – Northwest Region, Treaty Six Education Council, Light of Christ Catholic Schools, Living Sky School Division, KidsFirst and Early Learning and Child Care.
Adam and Jill Bienenstock were also consulted in the design of the new Natural Play Space in Centennial Park just behind the Civic Centre.
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