YMCA of Southwestern Ontario Children's Educational Services receives $725,000 Lawson Foundation investment.

A group of four children explore a YMCA outdoor play space during the summer.


YMCA of Southwestern Ontario Children's Educational Services moves strategically forward with the support of Lawson Foundation investment of $725,000 to roll out a YMCA National Outdoor Play Scaling Strategy.


The YMCA of Southwestern Ontario is pleased to receive an investment of $725,000 from the Lawson Foundation for an ongoing project supporting outdoor play training in Children's Educational Services. This initiative is one of 8 projects in the second phase of the Lawson Foundation's Outdoor Play Strategy 2.0 and an investment of $4.95 million 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 (ELCC) and advance the pursuit of equitable access to outdoor play-based early learning for all young children in Canada. 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. This work 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 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 training in outdoor pedagogy, and 72% indicated they lacked the training and experience to implement outdoor pedagogy in their work. 

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

Embedding Outdoor Play Training: A YMCA National Early Learning and Child Care Transformation


This project embeds outdoor pedagogy across the YMCA national network and curriculum through a train-the-trainer model, reaching over 3,000 Early Learning Professionals, Directors, and Senior Leaders and impacting 320 ELCC centres and 87,000 children annually. The training focuses on incorporating outdoor play research and theory into practice and re-evaluating beliefs and attitudes about outdoor pedagogy. Emphasizing a leadership approach, the training involves self-reflection, documentation of new learning, quality practices, shared mentorship, and development of policy and assessment tools. A participatory evaluation will document changes in attitudes and practice, policies and procedures, and inform understanding of systems change across ELCC networks. 

For more information about this project, please contact:

Jennifer Gilbert, Child Care Regional Manager, Quality Assurance
Cyndi Frizelle, Child Care Regional Manager
Jenny Britt, Outdoor Play Specialist

Read the full announcement from the Lawson Foundation

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