Breath of Fresh Air: Outdoor Play Summit

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CBEEN recently supported Courtney Haeusler (Fernie) in attending the ‘Breath of Fresh Air: Outdoor Play Summit‘ in Ottawa. Here is what she discovered:

Like many of these workshops/conferences, my greatest takeaway is the connections made with like-minded folks and the enthusiasm and drive I feel after participating in a workshop such as the Breath of Fresh Air. I spent the weekend with familiar faces, and met some new ones along the way. I re-connected with some of the CNAC staff, had a tour of the Ottawa Forest and Nature school, ate yummy vegetarian food and listened to passionate individuals talk about outdoor play in the early years. With colleagues I discussed things like: the hurdles of starting up an outdoor program, paperwork fun, risk assessments, insurance etc. I also discussed with the Ottawa Forest and Nature school staff yurt struggles. We all agreed that a yurt is maintenance heavy in Canada. There are always little things to fix or maintain as the years go on, and we agree that the ambiance of the wood stove, and energy of the circular structure are the perks.

I was a part of the official launch of the new Outdoor Play Canada website, which essentially is a website/organization aiming to be a hub for practitioners, advocates, researchers who are supporting access to play in nature. I still have yet to do more research and navigating the website, but what I gathered is the website will be a place for individuals passionate about nature play to go to – to gather resources, get support and feel connected to each other.

My absolute favourite workshop was run by CNAC facilitators from Cloudberry Forest School. We discussed Early Years Perspectives on Outdoor Play. We hashed out “what does PLAY mean”, and in small and large groups discussed all the different perspectives on what defines PLAY. I find it always very useful and rewarding to sit with other Forest School facilitators (or early years educators), and give ideas/insights about free play. What Play looks like, what are the benefits of Play.

I was reminded the 3 things that define PLAY: Intrinsically motivated, personally directed, and freely chosen. I am a HUGE advocate for free play in the early years, and this workshop gave me an even more insightful look into what PLAY can look like. We discussed: If an adult plays the guitar during a Forest School session and the children sing along, is that play? If a child is sitting on a rock by themselves, is that play? If an adult gathers a group of children and plays tag, is that PLAY? At our next staff meeting I want to re-discuss Free- PLAY and what that looks like at our Forest School. We also were reminded that as adults, we often don’t engage in PLAY, and that as adults we can be reminded that play is just as important for us.

I was excited about a new toolkit that was shared and launched on the Outdoor Play website. It is called the Risk Benefit Assessment tool that is a resource that was available on the Outdoor Play Website. This resources could be useful to us in the future as we transition to outlining the benefits in our risk assessments.

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