More than 50 educators from ASD-W gathered in Fredericton for a professional learning day on Jan. 15 to explore the benefits of physical literacy for preschoolers and kindergarten age students.
The training session was held at Killarney Lake Lodge to help teachers prepare early learners for a smooth transition to public school, making it a place young children are ready for and look forward to spending their time.
Discussions and presentations took place on how purposeful play can be guided by educators through games, groups activities and general fun to keep young children active and engaged in listening, socializing, communicating and problem solving. This kind of purposeful play not only inspires creativity, collaboration and confidence - it allows children to explore their surroundings, make meaning out of their experiences, and forms the foundation of a child's intellectual, social, physical and emotional skills necessary for resiliency and success in school and life, educators were told.
The strong value of outdoor play and how it supports the development of the whole child was a main focus of the day with teachers heading outdoors together to take part in winter group activities with Ian Smith, a retired outdoor educator with Parks NB.
"How powerful it is for like-minded adults who work with children to come together to push their own boundaries and allow themselves to experience the freedom of play both inside and outside, just like their students on any given day," said Nicolle Fleck, assistant regional director for early childhood services at ASD-W. "I know they have been validated in what they are already doing or inspired to find more ways to allow children to move and play throughout the day. The resounding message was teachers want more time to be outside in nature to expand their experience in the learning environment right along with their students."
Nathalie Waddell from Active Kids, Misty Phillips, educational support staff from ASD-E, and Candace Gallagher and Gillian Bateman from the UNB Children's Centre, were also presenters during the day on the positive impact of play on child development.
"The exploring day was an excellent opportunity for teachers and early educators to build skills that allow them to become more comfortable in the play environment," said Joe Crossland, physical education and health lead with ASD-W. "The data and research shows how much movement, activity and play can impact a student's learning, attention and focus and that's what the day touched on. As educators, we need to get outside the pillars of curriculum and see that play or activity encompasses literacy, numeracy, physical education, fine arts, science and connects students to what is going on in their school or community environment. Moving classes away from a traditional environment can create so many different learning experiences."
Anna-Marie Hayes, director of early childhood services for ASD-W, said not only is play important for a child's overall well-being and development, it is their right under the Convention of the Rights of Children, Article 31, which states "a child has the right to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts."
Hayes said the professional development day on physical literacy was part of a three-year "bridging project" for educators involved in early learning with the support of school districts, the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, and community partners.
The ASD-W schools involved in the project this year are Gibson Neill Memorial Elementary School, Gesner Street Elementary School, Forest Hill Elementary School, New Maryland Elementary School, Lincoln Community School and Assiniboine Avenue School.
Shown in the photos below are educators from ASD-W taking part in outdoor activities with Ian Smith, reitred outdoor educator with Parks NB, during the professional development day on physical literacy at Killarney Lake Lodge.