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We’re delighted that Natural Pod will be attending this year’s Open Play conference in Victoria, BC happening October 20th, 2012 at Royal Roads University. Early Bird Rates are available until September 1st, 2012. Consider registering.

About OPEN (Outdoor Play Environments Naturally!)

Was formed by a small but passionate group of Early Childhood Educators in Victoria, British Columbia. We originally got together to share ideas about outdoor learning and play. Over time we decided we wanted to share these ideas and create a venue in which educators could share in the learning and inspiration.The OPEN the Door Conference was born.

In October of 2011 we launched our first conference. Participants were invited to do a self guided tour in the morning of different Early Care and Learning Center’s outdoor spaces. In the afternoon participants gathered for a lunch and Keynote presentations to discuss and share in the learning.

Last year’s conference inspired people to think more deeply about their outdoor spaces and encouraged them to allow for some risk taking. This year’s conference aims to give participants some practical and inexpensive ideas on how to incorporate nature play easily into their programs.

Open the Door to Possibility Conference

8:30-9:00 ~Registration
9:00 – 12:00 ~ Outdoor Workshops
12:00 – 1:30 ~ Lunch
1:30 – 3:30 ~ Keynote Address: Ken Finch
3:30 – 4:00 ~ Questions and Discussion

Outdoor Experiences

From 9:00 to 12:00 we will have three outdoor experiences for participants.

1. Nature Kindergarten ~ a walk in the woods with naturalists through the woods of the nature kindergarten.
2. Land Art ~ Dr. Enid Elliot and Danielle Davis facilitate an experience in art and environment. What does art look outside the walls of our classrooms? Does art need to be permanent? What can we learn from artists like Robert Smithson and Andy Goldsworthy? We will explore these questions and the medium of using natural landscapes to create artistic and environmental statements.
3. Finding Nature Play Right Where We Are! ~Join Ken Finch, of Green Hearts INC, to explore our outdoor surroundings in search of great nature play opportunities that may be right in front of our noses, but too easy to overlook! Teams of participants will engage in a scavenger hunt to find good nature play features, and then share and discuss them with the other teams.

Keynote Address

Restoring the Nature of Childhood – Presented by Ken Finch of Green Hearts Inc. of Omaha Nebraska

Throughout history, human children have grown up with nature as a favorite and powerful play partner but today that connection is vanishing amidst an onslaught of parental fears, over-scheduled childhoods, urbanization, and the addictive allure of plugged-in play. Using research data, anecdotes, discussion, and thematic cartoons, Ken Finch will discuss the diverse and significant impacts of nature-based play on holistic child development, as well as how nature play lays the foundation for life-long bonds with nature.
In this presentation we’ll also consider whether good nature play requires acres of wild land right outside your classroom, or if can it be done in just a small, fenced playground. Finch will share slides of practical, inexpensive, and successful approaches to nature play that have been used in a
variety of early childhood settings. Participants will be asked to share their own ideas, barriers, and opportunities about nature play, and to begin formulating new plans for their own programs.

Ken Finch is the founder and president of Green Hearts Institute for Nature in Childhood, a non-profit conservation organization focused on restoring the bonds between children and nature. Green Hearts teaches, speaks, writes, and consults about the power of nature-based play and how it can be restored to childhood. Green Hearts works extensively with both the environmental education and early childhood education professions, and promotes the synergy between them. Based in Omaha, Nebraska, Green Hearts works across the U.S. and internationally.

Ken has worked in environmental education for 38 years, and holds a Master’s degree in that field. He has led two of the United States’ largest nature centers, worked as a senior manager in two children’s museums, and served as the Minnesota State Director for the National Audubon Society. His extensive volunteer experience includes service on many non-profit boards and advisory committees, as well as a term as the national President of the Association of Nature Center Administrators.