This past Saturday, I presented a 3 hour workshop on outdoor play at a small state-wide child care conference. It’s been a while since I last facilitated a workshop with participants that were not my own staff, mostly because I don’t look forward to the blank stares and sometimes verbal push back I get when I advocate for play, especially outdoor play. I know that my voice needs to be heard but man it is hard to always be fighting the good fight! I’m so thankful for the community we have built here at the Co-op!
I guess I was feeling extra feisty that day in January when a call for proposals went out. I’ve done this state conference before. The participants come mostly from publicly funded centers where they are required to focus primarily on academics, but here’s the thing… the state’s early learning and development standards aren’t academically focused. They are actually quite good, but no one is teaching child care providers how to recognize the standards as represented in play (and then there is the whole assessment piece that I’m not going into here and primarily why we are not publicly funded). I’m not looking forward to a room full of participants whose hands are tied because they have too many worksheets to complete or because their administration doesn’t understand how vital unstructured time, outdoor time specifically, is to little people; but I know they need to hear it. So, workshop idea formed! I enlisted the help of a friend and colleague, Sylvan Taylor. Maybe if the disapproving eyes are divided between the both of us, it won’t be so bad?
I have to say, our presentation was really, really good! Sylvan and I had the most popular session out of the whole conference! No one got up and left (a group joined a little way into the session because the one they had signed up for didn’t hold their interest)! No one pushed back (at least out loud)! They asked insightful questions and truly wanted to know how to provide the children in their care with more outside time. Over half of them wanted my slide presentation, so they could go back to their centers and present the case for extended periods of outside time for their littles! I was proud.
This encounter with the publicly funded world is a reminder of how proud I am of our Co-op community, of the example we set and the authentic childhood we provide our littles while preparing them for what is to come when they grow up and leave us. May we continue to set the example.