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What we love most about our work are the people we work with. We’re very proud of our natural play community here at Natural Pod and to celebrate some of the people in our community, we’ve started a short series we’re calling our Natural Play Community People Profiles. Short interviews with some of the great people leading the work of using natural play to inspire creativity, learning and compassion in our early learning, kindergarten, preschool and daycare communities.

Our featured Natural Play Community People Profile of the week are: Joanne Pizzuto and Jocelyne Brent from Dr. David Suzuki Public School – Early Years Pizzuto/Brent St.Onge/Lecoq

What inspired you to be an educator?

Joanne – For me, it’s always been my love and my passion for learning. I loved going to school and being able to help the teacher and I have always enjoyed helping others. It has been a natural extension for me to bring this passion to children. To know that I have a had a hand in making learning joyful for children and given them the gift of becoming lifelong learners takes on a fulfilling meaning for me.

Jocelyne – I have always been drawn to our youngest citizens. It’s an innate feeling that I have, to meet a child where they are and support them in being the best of who they were meant to be. Being in a learning moment with a child fills me with a great joy for them and how they feel about themselves. Given the opportunity to choose a new career path after my own children were grown, it was a natural and very conscious choice to become an educator of young children.

What are the most rewarding aspects of your work?

Joanne – Knowing that I’ve made the difference in the life of a child. We are at the beginning of the child’s education and are able to set the foundation for a lifelong learner. I truly believe that kindergarten is most important for this reason. Knowing that passion is one of the most valuable ingredients for a successful life, I feel that I am able to share this excitement with children and with other educators.

Jocelyne – The obvious answer is seeing the children I work with become who they were ever meant to be and knowing that I value them for who they are. Yet, there is so much more to this answer than the obvious. In order to be a part of having my work reap the rewards it does, the relationships formed as I interact with the children are the not-so-obvious answer. It is only in forming and honoring these relationships in a respectful way that a child realizes their own value. I enjoy such meaningful connections with the children, their families, my colleagues…and most especially my partner. In this way, I too have come to the realization of who I was ever meant to be.

What best describes the unique aspects of the program that you offer?

Joanne and Jocelyne – We truly value the child as a capable learner and feel that a natural play environment is essential in supporting their learning in the most authentic and meaningful way. We consider our indoors and outdoors to be valuable classrooms. The indoor classroom and outdoor play yard are set into centres that reflect the children’s interests and developmental needs. The natural environment is reflected throughout. Natural materials are highly valued and provide the children with many opportunities to learn through play. We also value the outdoor classroom beyond our play yard. With a field, hill, trees, rock beds, compost area, native plant species and environmental focus, Dr. David Suzuki School is an ideal place to reflect our beliefs in how children best learn. Play and learning are synonymous in the natural environment. And, the enjoyment of four seasons means our outdoor classroom is ever-changing.

If you had a magic wand, what would you change in your learning environment?

Joanne – We would be outdoors all day! We would have access to a forest and a pond and instill in the children a love of nature. It’s disheartening to know that children have not had the opportunity to experience the awe and wonder of nature and that they are such a vital part of their world. When we were young we spent most of our time outdoors. We were creative in everything we were doing. We as educators need to instill the love and passion of our outdoors in our children and re-connect them with the world that they are growing in.

Jocelyne – Let them play! The research is clear, children learn through play…and their learning takes on deeper meaning in a natural environment when their interests are honored. Someone recently said, “Yeah, but we don’t have what they have.” When we were children, we didn’t need anything to just play. We played outside, we played with just bowls and mud, we played with scrap fabric and sticks…we played. And oh how very much we learned! Become the co-learner with the children as they play and the learning will explode exponentially!