Outdoor learning spaces welcome at Island daycares

Planting in Mindemoya are, left to right, Kristina Rennie, Sarah Umakoshi, Jessica Pelland, Mr. Wiwchar CMPS principal, Diana St Pierre, Marnie Hall Brown and Amanda Roy.

MANITOULIN—Child care centres in Little Current and Mindemoya have welcomed new, outdoor learning spaces to their daycares in recent months.

“We believe that children learn best through strong relationships with their families, educators and other children environment,” said Diana St. Pierre, children’s services program director, Manitoulin Family Resources. “Creating a rich natural environment allows children to explore and question nature.  Discover and observe how nature grows.”

Research suggests that connection to the natural world contributes to children’s mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health and well-being. Providing daily opportunities to explore, care for, and interact with the natural world helps to strengthen these connections,” Ms. St. Pierre noted.

“Over four years ago we started dreaming of creating a richer outdoor space for the children attending the Little Current Child Care Centre,” Ms. St. Pierre explained. “With the financial support from the District Services Board and through funding from the Ministry of Education we were able to start this process. We also received some additional funding from TD Friends of the Environment to purchase some of the plants for our space. Looking at many outdoor playground companies, we chose Bienenstock. The staff was very helpful and flexible through the whole process. Once Little Current’s design was completed we were in the process of a possible expansion of our child care programs in Mindemoya as well and were able to receive more funding to build a new outdoor learning space there as well.”

It was important to MFR to have a piece of the community in the design so children would have a sense of belonging. During the beginning stages of designing Little Current’s space a bridge to bring children across to “goat island” with a rock creek flowing under the bridge was envisioned. “The landscape is hilly for gross motor skills and symbolizes our island landscape. With the high costs, we had to take out the bridge for the time being but with plans to have a bridge built in the future.,” she said.

In Mindemoya, the outdoor space includes a pathway flowing around a mass of land which represents Treasure Island.

“We were able to obtain donated logs, gravel, sand and boulders all from local companies to keep all materials from the Island,” Ms. St. Pierre added.

Once the project had a start date of this past October, that’s when the excitement started.

Parents, family members and staff, along with the Northeast Town Mayor Al McNevin and the DSB’s Children’s Services Supervisor Lori Clark came out to break ground in Little Current and help demolish the “old, dull” play space.

“It was so exciting to see both projects come together,” Ms. St. Pierre added. “With H&R Noble delivering boulders from Lafarge, H&R Noble donating gravel and sand and more boulders courtesy of Don Eadie Construction. Evan Roy of ER Construction hauled cedar logs from Don Eadie Construction as well as hardwood logs from John Lewis’s sawmill. Paul Sheppard from Sheppard Brothers Construction loaded up stumps for us in his field.” 

Throughout the construction phase the children from child care, Early ON programs and the school watched, observed, did predictions of what the playground would look like and documented the process. Once the construction phase was completed, students from the school were invited to help with the planting. 

“We look forward to added bits and pieces to the spaces, growing vegetables, creating habitats for animals and insects to learn from,” she said. 

“We welcome you to come and discover our spaces in both Little Current and Mindemoya,” Ms. St. Pierre concluded.