Exploring the national scope of outdoor nature-based early learning programs in Canada: Findings from a large-scale survey study

D. Harwood, E. Boileau, Z. Dabaja, K. Julien


Across Canada, early learning nature-based programs are gaining popularity with many new programs being implemented each year. Currently, little is known about the number, type, pedagogies, and curricula content of Canadian outdoor and nature-based early learning programs. Thus, this mixed methods study was conducted to explore this growing movement. In total, two hundred educators, representing 165 various programs across Canada completed an online survey. Fifty-one percent of the participants reported having a diploma in Early Childhood Education or similar qualification. In addition, it was estimated that between 40 000 to 60 000 Canadian children, mostly aged between 3 to 9 years, had taken part in these programs during 2018-2019. Moreover, findings suggested that weather conditions can impact the time spent outdoors and that emergent, child-centered curricula rooted in play were guiding the pedagogy of a large percentage of the represented programs.

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