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K-State Today

February 27, 2013

University symposium for early childhood educators all about connecting children to the outdoors

Submitted by Communications and Marketing

Connecting children to nature through inspired and engaging spaces is the focus of a statewide symposium for early childhood educators, March 20-21, at the Hilton Garden Inn Convention Center in Manhattan.

The symposium is sponsored by Kansas State University's Center for Child Development through a grant from the Caroline F. Peine Foundation. It will feature internationally known experts in living classrooms and outdoor play environments for children.

"Reconnecting children to nature and the outdoors has become, in the past few years, one of the most popular movements in the early childhood field," said Debra Ring, director of the university's Child Development Center, where such spaces have been created.

"The Center for Child Development staff has studied the new and growing body of research indicating that direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development and for the physical and emotional health of children," Ring said. "We have worked hard to create natural play spaces and direct daily connection with nature for our children. We invite everyone to join us in our quest to improve children's outdoor play spaces and learn to use those natural spaces to engage children in learning."

The university's Center for Child Development is a nationally accredited early care and education program for infants through preschool and a leader in center-based early childhood teacher professional development. 

Symposium presenters include Claire Warden, Perthshire, Scotland, and Rusty Keeler, Ithaca, N.Y. Both are authors of best-selling books and are frequent conference keynote speakers and lecturers at colleges internationally. 

In her work as an international educational consultant and lecturer at the University Strathclyde in Scotland, Warden has developed dynamic and creative living classrooms. Her own nature preschools and kindergartens in Perth and Kinross, Scotland, are centers of innovation where children from 2-6 years old spend up to 90 percent of their day outside. Her methodologies, now implemented by policymakers in countries around the world, can help conference attendees implement her curriculum methods in their own communities.

Over the past 20 years, Keeler, an architect, has worked throughout the world to design and build outdoor play environments for children. He is known as one of the pioneers in the movement to reconnect children to nature. He believes in the beauty and importance of play in the development of children and is now helping to lead what he calls the "adventure play renaissance." He will discuss how to collaborate with others and harness the power of community and creativity to create outdoor play environments for children.

Also at the conference will be Jim Fay, a well-known parenting expert. Fay is the co-founder of The Love and Logic Institute and author of the best-seller "Parenting with Love and Logic." He will provide practical techniques to structure the classroom in a way that builds positive caring relationships and teaches children responsibility and self-discipline.

To attend one or both days of the symposium, please contact the Kansas Child Care Training Opportunities office at 800-227-3578 or visit online to get more information and to download a registration form at http://www.kccto.org/datafiles/docs/Registration_Form_March_20_21.pdf. Registration is being accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. Continuing education units are also available.