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Lawson Foundation Invests $4.95 Million in 8 Outdoor Play Projects Including Outdoor Play Canada

Lawson Foundation Invests $4.95 Million in 8 Outdoor Play Projects Including Outdoor Play Canada

Lawson Foundation invests $4.95 million in 8 demonstration projects, including Outdoor Play Canada, to build adult capacity to support outdoor play in Early Learning and Child Care

The Lawson Foundation is pleased to announce the launch of the second phase of its Outdoor Play Strategy and an investment of $4.95 million in 8 demonstration projects, including Outdoor Play Canada, that will benefit Early Learning and Child Care across Canada.

This strategy and investment are aligned with the Foundation’s long-standing advocacy for universal, high-quality, publicly funded Early Learning and Child Care and advance our pursuit of equitable access to outdoor play-based early learning for all young children in Canada.

With the federal government’s recent commitment to expand access to Early Learning and Child Care (ELCC) across Canada, the quality of children’s experiences in ELCC is of primary importance. This strategy and investment focus on demonstrating what’s possible through projects with the potential to affect systemic change in the areas of ELCC legislation, post-secondary education, ongoing professional learning for educators, and the implementation of ELCC programs in communities everywhere.

The Lawson Foundation believes the next innovation in ELCC quality is poised to happen through outdoor play and learning, enhancing developmental outcomes for children through the provision of healthier, engaging learning environments that spark children’s natural curiosity. Their work in outdoor play is integral to their advocacy for high quality ELCC and is even more relevant during the pandemic when being outdoors reduces the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

While the benefits and importance of outdoor play for children are supported by research, two studies funded by the Foundation suggest that there is a significant gap in training and resources for adults to support high quality outdoor play programs and experiences. In 2018, only five out of 100 college ECE programs had explicit outdoor pedagogy courses and no practicum experiences for students had outdoor play requirements. In addition, a Canadian survey of 896 ELCC educators who enrolled in an online outdoor play training course found that 89% of respondents had never received any training in outdoor pedagogy, and 72% indicated that they lacked the training and experience to implement outdoor pedagogy in their work. Lack of awareness and knowledge of outdoor play results in gaps and barriers in both policy and practice which the Outdoor Play Strategy will address.

The Lawson Foundation believes that the greatest lever for change is to increase adult capacity to implement and support outdoor play. That is why their strategy is focused on building that capacity to benefit licenced child care settings.

Demonstration projects across the country will serve as regional centres of outdoor play leadership and capacity, enabling stakeholders to see and experience what is possible. In addition, the Foundation has engaged Taylor Newberry Consulting to conduct a robust evaluation to ensure credible results can inform policy and practice as well as the application of learning elsewhere in Canada. The Foundation will use a cohort approach to working with these eight projects to learn from one another, collectively advancing outdoor play and Early Learning and Child Care in Canada.

A complete list of the funded projects can be found here.

For more information on the Outdoor Play Strategy, please connect with Christine Alden.