Nature's friends : An educational workshop to increase preschooler curiosity towards the natural world

Church Point (NS), 15 June 2016 - On 4th June, 2016, Sainte-Anne University welcomed 20 preschoolers and their parents for a nature-themed workshop. This free activity day was funded through an Eco-leadership RBC grant from the Fulbright Canada Foundation. The activities were planned and carried out with the help of students, research professionals, and professors from the social work, social science, education, and administration departments.

Over the course of the day, children had the opportunity to participate in observation, gardening, and arts and crafts activities. They also took part in a guided walk through the campus’s wooded trails. "The event allowed us to spark the scientific interest of young children. The observation activities with microscopes in the university greenhouse gave children the chance to discover the natural sciences from a new angle" mentions Valérie Lalande, co-organizer of the project.

The main objective was to nurture children’s curiosity towards the natural world. "Children today spend a lot of time interacting with screens at the expense of time spent playing outdoors or with other children" explains Caroline Fitzpatrick, Professor of psychology and organizer of the event. "Nature’s Friends allowed children to have fun while engaging with the environment that surrounds them."

Professor Fitzpatrick added: "we hope this activity will sensitize parents about the educational potential of horticulture and outdoor activities. We also hope it will help young families create links between each other as well as with the academic community of Sainte-Anne.”

This activity also allowed the organizers to examine the feasibility of using horticulture to support the cognitive, physical, and social development of young children. The benefits of horticulture for the physical and mental health of adults have been well documented. For example, gardening has been shown to reduce blood pressure and stress and to enhance attention and motor skills in adolescents and adults. The potential role of such activities for the development of younger children remains to be examined.

Another objective for the organizing team will be to sensitize local elementary and high school teachers about the learning opportunities that are available for their students at Université Sainte-Anne. "It is well known that real life contexts benefit student learning" said Elizabeth Harvey, Professor of education. "We want elementary and secondary schools to benefit from the resources here at Sainte-Anne."

Over the next year, the organizers intend on holding other nature-themed workshops in different seasonal contexts. Prof. Fitzpatrick plans to evaluate the role of horticulture and outdoor play for the school readiness and health of young children.

About the organisers

  • Caroline Fitzpatrick is a professor of psychology at Université Sainte-Anne and a researcher at Concordia University’s PERFORM Centre.
  • Valérie Lalande is a research professional at the Laboratory for Innovation in Science and Industry (LISI)
  • Élizabeth Harvey is a professor of education at Université Sainte-Anne and Ph.D. candidate in psychoéducation at Université Sherbrook

About Université Sainte-Anne

Université Sainte-Anne, the only French language post-secondary institution in Nova Scotia, offers university and college-level courses as well as a French immersion program and customized training in French as a second language. Recognized for its excellent programs as well as its unique and exceptional living environment, Sainte-Anne offers experiential learning opportunities that promote student engagement and success, and an atmosphere which encourages a culture of excellence in research and development. Solidly established in its community, Université Sainte-Anne is a partner of choice for all those who wish to strengthen the vitality of the regions surrounding its 5 campuses as well as all of Acadie throughout Nova Scotia.

For more information

Rachelle LeBlanc, Director of Communications and Marketing
Université Sainte-Anne
Tel. : (902) 769-2114 Extension 7222
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