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Call to Action # 12: Education (6-12)

Transforming Post-Secondary Early Childhood Education in Canada with Outdoor and Land-based Teaching and Learning

June 17, 2024

NationTalk: Toronto – A new report from the Lawson Foundation “More Than a New Course: A Framework for Embedding Outdoor and Land-based Pedagogies in Post-Secondary ECE Programs,” provides guidelines to help integrate Outdoor and Land-based teaching and learning in post-secondary early childhood education (ECE) programs across Canada, aiming to get faculty, students, and ultimately children outdoors and connected to nature and the Land.

The purpose of this framework is to transform post-secondary education in Canada, equipping Early Childhood Educators to implement Outdoor and Land-based approaches and guiding senior administrators and policymakers to support these practices through necessary policy and practice changes. This framework supports post-secondary institutions to achieve multiple strategic priorities for student success and teaching excellence, the important work of Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples, and environmental sustainability.

“Drawing on the expertise of an Indigenous and non-Indigenous working group, this framework provides a vision for transformational change that supports cultivating a new generation of early childhood educators who value and promote Outdoor and Land-based approaches in their practice with young children,” says the Lawson Foundation President & CEO, Cathy Taylor. “This work is timely, as post-secondary institutions across Canada respond to the Canada-Wide Early Learning and Child Care (CWELCC) plan that emphasizes the demand for qualified early childhood educators.”

For too long, early childhood education in Canada has favoured indoor learning environments over the outdoors and lacked recognition of Indigenous Land-based approaches. As a result, young children have missed out on formative experiences critical to their healthy development.

Noella Wells (Ootaihkimmiaki), Elder and Advisor for the framework from the Piikani Nation, Blackfoot Confederacy, highlighted this integration of worldviews, saying, “This framework offers post-secondary leaders a vision to bring together diverse worldviews about learning on the Land and in nature, and concrete actions to transform ECE programs.”

Research shows that only 7% of post-secondary ECE program descriptions in Canada currently include a module or course related to outdoor and/or Indigenous Land-based approaches. Yet Outdoor and Land-based approaches in ECE settings offer tremendous benefits for children, including helping them become healthier and more active, increasing self-regulation and resilience, enhancing social skills through peer interaction, and learning through play. In addition to these benefits that support healthy child development and learning, this approach fosters children’s environmental awareness and connection to the Land, each other and all living things. These benefits extend to the ECE faculty and their students who teach and learn outdoors and on the Land.

By integrating Euro-Western worldviews of outdoor play and Indigenous ways of knowing, being, doing, and connecting, we can create a future where early childhood educators in Canada are encouraged and equipped to use Outdoor and Land-based teaching and learning approaches to support young children’s learning and well-being through respect, relevance, reciprocity, and responsibility with the Land, for the benefit of all.

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About the Lawson Foundation
The Lawson Foundation is a Canadian family foundation that invests in and engages with ideas, people and organizations that contribute to the healthy development of children and youth. Learn more about the Foundation and its work in supporting outdoor play at www.lawson.ca.

Media Contact
Amanda Mayer
613.292.0569
amayer@lawson.ca