Outdoor Pedagogy in Early Childhood Education: From Colleges to Communities

Research Area: Social Innovation | Status:  Ongoing | Led By: Researcher-led with student support

The Challenge

When children play outdoors in nature, it has been shown to positively impact their overall development and well-being. While these benefits and the importance of outdoor play are supported by research, there is a significant gap in training and resources for both educators and practitioners in the early learning and childcare field to support high-quality outdoor play programs and experiences. In a study conducted between 2015-2018, survey results from 896 early learning and child care educators indicated that 89 percent of the respondents had not engaged in studies or training on outdoor pedagogy. Seventy-two percent indicated that they lacked knowledge and experience in designing and implementing programming specific to outdoor pedagogy. Another study examined the number of explicit outdoor pedagogy courses available in college ECE programs. Of the 100 programs in Canada, only five had specific courses. Thirty-three colleges had outdoor play embedded in other courses, such as in health and safety courses. No practicum had outdoor play requirements. Play is in peril, especially as it relates to access for child-led outdoor play and experiences. This is despite children having the right to play and the research that articulates outdoor pedagogy is foundational for children’s development, including contributing to fostering healthy values, attitudes, skills, and behaviours towards themselves, others, and their environment.

The Solution

This project aims to increase outdoor pedagogy in college ECE programs and their communities. This will be achieved by engaging faculty in an outdoor pedagogy teaching and mentoring model that will then be applied with students, directors, educators, and children in their community early learning and child care programs.

About the Collaboration

In collaboration with faculty from Bow Valley College, Saskatchewan Polytechnic, and New Brunswick Community College, this project addresses two major obstacles that are impeding outdoor pedagogy in ELCC programs. They are the lack of access to:

  1. Outdoor pedagogy training and resources available for early learning and child care students and professionals.
  2. Explicit outdoor pedagogy courses in College ECE programs and practicums.

Addressing these issues may positively change the attitudes of regulators, ELCC professionals, families, and children who perceive outdoors as less important than indoor programming. Currently, ECE graduates and employees largely lack the training to counter these attitudes and advocate for more outdoor play.

The project utilizes a training and coaching model that supports college ECE faculty, their students, and designated ELCC programs in gaining the knowledge and skills needed to design and implement outdoor pedagogy environments. This is foundational to scaling the model of change to a national level, beginning with colleges.

The project website has blogs, podcasts, and resources created by the team and some student participants.

We’re working collectively to build the skills and resources required to help the next generation of early childhood educators understand the benefits of outdoor learning, which will directly influence children, families, and communities across Canada and here in our community.

Tammie Hachey-Bell, instructor in NBCC’s Early Childhood Education program

Project Partners/Funders


Bow Valley
Okanagan College
Saskatchewan Polytechnic


Lawson Foundation

About Applied Research and Innovation
NBCC’s Applied Research and Innovation office helps businesses and communities find solutions to their challenges. Through its expertise, equipment, and facilities, NBCC helps its partners to solve problems, take advantage of market opportunities, and develop new, innovative processes that will enhance how New Brunswickers live, work and do business.