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Introducing the 2019 Outdoor Play Canada Award Winners

Outdoor Play Canada Awards were established in 2019 with the generous support of Kamik, Inc., and were presented today at the inaugural Breath of Fresh Air Outdoor Play Summit at Wesley Clover Parks in Ottawa, Canada.

Honour Award

The Outdoor Play Canada Honour Award is the highest form of recognition by Outdoor Play Canada. The award is designed to recognize and celebrate an individual/organization who has demonstrated exceptional and sustained leadership for the promotion of outdoor play in Canada. Qualified nominees are individuals/organizations who have made outstanding contributions to outdoor play through leadership, capacity development, practice, policy, research, advocacy, role-modelling, and other efforts to substantially support the outdoor play movement in Canada.

2019 winner: The Lawson Foundation


The Lawson Foundation has been instrumental in supporting the outdoor play movement in Canada, with a particular focus on children and healthy growth and development. They provided critical support for the development of the Position Statement on Active Outdoor Play that was released in 2015. This landmark Position Statement brought together organizations from across Canada that were interested in outdoor play and reconnecting children with nature and the outdoors, for all of the benefits they provide. With vision and commitment, The Lawson Foundation planned a generous Outdoor Play Strategy to be launched in response to the release of the Position Statement, in an attempt to address the recommendations contained in the Position Statement. The Outdoor Play Strategy aimed to increase children’s opportunities for self-directed play outdoors in all settings – at home, in school, in child care, the community and nature. The $2.7 million dollar funding Strategy sought to help us better understand how to support Canadian communities to foster outdoor play. The strategy went from 2013-2018 and funded 18 projects. As of 2019, the investment has grown to $5 million. The Lawson Foundation is now embarking on a strategy to advance outdoor play and early childhood education. The launch of Outdoor Play Canada could not have happened without the support, involvement and leadership provided by The Lawson Foundation – they are uniquely deserving of the inaugural Outdoor Play Canada Honour Award.

Dr. Mariana Brussoni Award

The Outdoor Play Canada Dr. Mariana Brussoni Award is intended to recognize and celebrate an individual who has provided leadership for the promotion and activation of outdoor risky play in Canada. Qualified nominees are individuals who have demonstrated exceptional commitment and leadership for the promotion of children’s healthy, active, and risky outdoor play, and whose contribution has advanced Outdoor Play Canada’s capacity to achieve its objectives.

2019 winner: Dr. Mariana Brussoni

Dr. Mariana Brussoni is the leading Canadian researcher, pioneer and advocate for the importance of risky play for healthy childhood growth and development. She is the inaugural recipient of the Outdoor Play Canada Dr. Mariana Brussoni Award, which is named in her honour. Dr. Brussoni’s research has covered a wide array of issues in the field of risky outdoor play, including parenting attitudes related to risk and safety; developmental importance of children’s risky play; design of children’s communities and play spaces; and policy to support children’s outdoor play. She has published extensively and has been widely featured in media in Canada and around the world. It is rare to find a researcher who understands policy and practice and how their research work relates to changing behaviors. Dr. Brussoni exemplifies this, as shown through her online tool which aims to reframe parent’s perceptions of risk. She is also developing an index of playability of outdoor environments which will be used to design urban environments to better meet children’s needs and positively influence their development and well-being. Dr. Brussoni is humble in her achievements but laser focused on researching, publicizing and speaking out about expanding children’s opportunities for risky outdoor play.

Policy Award

The Outdoor Play Canada Policy Award recognizes and celebrates a significant contribution to the policy base for the field of outdoor play. It is awarded to a policy-maker and/or organization for demonstrated commitment and leadership in policy development and/or implementation that promotes and/or facilitates outdoor play. Qualified nominees are individuals or groups/organizations whose efforts have resulted in improved quantity and/or quality of outdoor play through developing, refining, implementing and/or promoting policies/regulations facilitating outdoor play.

2019 winner: The City of Calgary, Parks and Recreation

The City of Calgary was one of the first cities in Canada to declare its support of Article 31 of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, which states that the child has a right to leisure, play, and participation in cultural and artistic activities. City leaders decided to address play as a critical social component to a healthy city when the ParticipACTION Report Card and the Position Statement on Active Outdoor Play were released. The Report Card noted that Canada could increase its poor grade by focusing on active outdoor play. Since then the City has developed several initiatives to broaden the awareness and importance of play. With funding from The Lawson Foundation, the City conducted research with Calgary parents on forms of play and play spaces; piloted evidence-based play programs; and created a municipal Play Charter. The subsequent 2018 Impact Report on the Play Charter reaffirmed its value; the City celebrated by renewing the Charter with the original partners and new signatories. The Council also provided support for the 2017 International Play Conference. The City continues to build and enhance play infrastructure in City parks, by providing nature play spaces, mobile adventure playgrounds, community playgrounds, and loose parts boxes throughout the City. Calgary continues to develop and expand its play policy activities by participating in National Play Day (August 7, 2019) and by holding the Calgary Play Summit on November 20, 2019. This commitment is underpinned by YYC Plays, a group of organizations that work together to show the value of play and the effect it has on Calgary.

Practice Award

The Outdoor Play Canada Practice Award recognizes and celebrates individuals/groups/organizations for sustained commitment to quality practice or program delivery that promotes and/or facilitates outdoor play. Qualified nominees have demonstrated dedication, commitment, passion, innovation or creativity to current practice or program delivery to promote/facilitate quality outdoor play experiences.

2019 winner: Maple Ridge Environmental School


Maple Ridge Environmental School is one of the first year-round, exclusively outdoor schools in Canada. This innovative school and its dedicated educators are passionate about connecting children with the land, teaching the importance of a reciprocal relationship with nature and fostering experiential learning. Through play and exploration, children learn while being immersed in natural settings. The children connect with nature with their minds, bodies and hearts, while exploring alongside streams during the salmon migration or collecting natural treasures like rocks and cones for a ‘store’. Students spend extensive time outdoors learning about their surroundings, and the histories, practices and principles of the local Kwantlen and Katzie people. The school fosters place-conscious, ecological, emergent and imaginative teaching and learning. It cultivates a spirit of inquiry and exploration in nature and promotes different forms of knowledge. Exposed to the cycle of the seasons, the children gain first-hand knowledge of ecosystems, including the diversity, complexity and sustainability of the More-than-Human World. Maple Ridge Environmental School is also a strong example of how to integrate research and practice, with its partnership with Simon Fraser University. Through its deep commitment to sustainable education and play-based learning, the Maple Ridge Environmental School is supporting the next generation of children to connect, appreciate and participate in the outdoors.

Research Award

The Outdoor Play Canada Research Award recognizes and celebrates an individual for national leadership and outstanding contribution to research related to outdoor play. Qualified nominees are prominent researchers who have demonstrated research excellence recognized as scholarly output and recognition in the field of outdoor play that has demonstrated national impact.

2019 winner: Dr. Ian Janssen

Dr. Janssen is a highly prolific and respected researcher whose contributions to the literature on outdoor play have provided a rigorous and solid foundation for Canadian outdoor play research, as well as influenced researchers internationally. He has published over 300 peer-reviewed papers with almost 50,000 citations, earning him the Thomas-Reuters highly-cited researcher honour. His research has been influential in highlighting the physical activity level of children in Canada, the factors that affect their activity level, and how their activity influences their health. One of Dr. Janssen’s ambitious studies involved outfitting hundreds of elementary school kids with GPS-enabled smart-watch monitors they wear on their wrists and movement monitors attached at the hip. This technology takes readings every 20 seconds over 7 days, creating a huge database of recorded physical motion. One of his research foci examined whether different domains of physical activity influence health differently. His findings indicate that outdoor play is one of the most effective ways of getting children moving and physically active. In addition, his work linked children’s environments with their activity behaviour, indicating the importance of neighbourhood design to support children’s outdoor active play. Dr. Janssen is a sought-after research collaborator, valued for his methodological rigour, ethical standards, thoughtful contributions and good humour. His contributions have fundamentally shaped the direction and rigour of outdoor play research in Canada.

Youth Award

The Outdoor Play Canada Youth Award recognizes and encourages talent in the area of active, healthy and risky outdoor play promotion. Qualified nominees are students, trainees and young leaders under the age of 30 years who have demonstrated involvement, commitment and leadership for the promotion of outdoor play in Canada.

2019 winner: Chloe Dragon Smith


Chloe Dragon Smith is leading the way in (re)connecting children and youth with the land and nature. Passionate about creating ethical space between Indigenous and Eurocentric knowledge systems, Chloe has made important contributions to this dialogue, including through an article entitled “Indigenizing Outdoor Play” published in the Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development in early 2019. Chloe’s involvement in the outdoor play field is paving the way for a new generation of environmental stewards by fostering meaningful connections with the land. Chloe promotes and supports cultural and land-based connections for children through play-based learning in her work co-leading Bushkids in Yellowknife, NWT. Additionally, Chloe’s work as a facilitator for Forest School Canada supports educators and early childhood educators in encouraging the healthy development of children through play and learning outside. In 2017, Chloe was involved in the creation of the Nature Playbook, a tool created to bring a new generation of Canadian children outdoors to connect with nature.

Interested in nominating someone for a 2021 Outdoor Play Canada Award?

Members of Outdoor Play Canada can nominate candidates using the nomination form available on the Outdoor Play Canada member’s only section of the website. Nominations can be submitted at any time but must be received no later than June 30 2021.