Local Not-for-Profits Open Outdoor Learning Space for Young Children in Central Windsor
Two neighbouring charities—Connections Early Years Family Centre and Aboriginal Child Resource Centre—have collaborated to open a community outdoor learning space for families with children 0 to 6 years old, named Kitigan mino inawendiwin – The Good Friends Garden.
On Tuesday, June 25th, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held to celebrate the opening of the Good Friends Garden and recognize key sponsors: Rotary Club of Windsor (1918), TD Friends of the Environment Foundation, Lowe’s and Dulux Paints.
“Both agencies wanted to maximize their resources and create an outdoor learning space to encourage outdoor play and learning for children 0 to 6 years old and their families and emphasize the importance of outdoor play in childhood development” – Barb Brown Connections’ Executive Director
Wanda Nahdee, Program Manager of the Aboriginal Child Resource Centre agrees. “The Good Friends Garden, Kitigan mino inawendiwin in the Anishinaabe language, will give families from both Centres the opportunity to come together to participate in and create outdoor experiences which celebrate the natural world around them.”
The outdoor learning space is the fruit of a collaboration between Connections, Aboriginal Child Resource Centre, families who attend their centres and neighbours who formed the “Outdoor Committee” which has been planning the space since September 2018.
The Outdoor Committee partnered with students from the St. Clair College Landscape & Design class who presented their ideas for an outdoor learning space, which inspired the final design.
The committee wanted to incorporate only natural materials in the space that would encourage open-ended play and safe risk-taking. There are also elements which acknowledge indigenous culture and heritage, such as a large wooden teepee with stars and crescent moon cut-outs and the four sacred medicines planted in the garden: tobacco, sage, cedar and sweetgrass.
Throughout June, parents and children participated in the first Outdoor Learning class at Connections, led by Forest & Nature School Practitioner Pat Andrews. Families explored nature reconnections and followed the children’s lead in play-based learning activities in the outdoor space.
Starting Monday, July 8th, it will be open for families with young children to explore Monday to Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The space is located between the two centres at 795 Giles Blvd. E. Adult supervision will be required at all times. For more information on the Good Friends Garden, call Connections Early Years Family Centre at 519-252-9696.