Northern College Partners with Institutions in BC, Alberta for Outdoor Play Study

Northern College News and Events

Date Posted: May 12, 2016

TIMMINS, ON: Northern College is teaming up in a unique Pan-Canadian partnership with colleges in British Columbia and Alberta for applied research in the Early Childhood Education sector.

The study targets Early Childhood Education workers in licensed rural and urban early learning centres across Canada to identify skills gaps related to the facilitation of outdoor play. The lead institution is Okanagan College of British Columbia, with Northern College of Ontario and Lethbridge College of Alberta as interprovincial partners in the study.

Dr. Beverlie Dietze, Lead Researcher and Director of Learning and Teaching at Okanagan College, acknowledges the vast amount of research already done on related subjects. “The benefits of outdoor play for health and wellness have already been well established. Our research will look at outdoor play from a different perspective, focusing instead on the early childhood education practitioners who facilitate that play. The goal is to help these practitioners develop essential skills that will improve outdoor play programming and, ultimately, outdoor play experiences.”

Participants in the study will engage in a research component and specialized training focused on implementing outdoor play programming. Northern College will lend its expertise in the area of online training development by creating a 36-hour training module that will be used both during and after the study, and that will address the facilitation of outdoor play in more extreme weather environments. The training module will be made available to early childhood education workers across the country via an online, open-source application.

Dr. Audrey Penner, Vice President, Academic and Student Success for Northern College, notes, “Our focus on innovation at Northern College, coupled with our rural and Northern location, has driven us to stay ahead of the curve on technology-enabled learning. We’re happy to have the opportunity to once again apply our expertise to solve a real-world problem that’s relevant to our students and our communities. Recognition of our core expertise in Early Childhood Education to be applied to a Pan-Canadian framework is a bonus for us within this study.”

This research project was awarded a $195,000 grant by The Lawson Foundation and was one of fourteen projects to be selected as part of their Outdoor Play Strategy. According to a January media release by The Lawson Foundation, many projects were chosen based on their “strong community connections” and “short and long term impact on the ground with children.”

“We’re excited to partner with Okanagan College and engage our Early Childhood Education program professors and students with this project,” says Northern College President Fred Gibbons. “Our students will gain hands-on experience solving a real-world problem that will in turn have a huge, long-term impact on the early childhood education sector. By directly contributing to advancements in their field, our students will gain a competitive advantage when seeking employment after graduation.”

Northern College’s Department of Applied Research, Entrepreneurship and Innovation continues to provide updates on their research projects at

Media Contact:
Jim Banks
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705.235.3211 ext. 2253