Exploring Risk in Outdoor Play

June 1 – 2, 2018 at the DoubleTree by Hilton, Dartmouth, NS

Throughout this conference Early Childhood Educators will be challenged with new ways to explore risk in outdoor play. As ECEs we have chosen to work in a profession that affords young children the opportunity to develop and learn through play based outdoor exploration. We hope that participants will be inspired to reflect on their values and beliefs regarding outdoor play as to:

  • How they can develop their outdoor environment;
  • How they can facilitate meaningful outdoor play experiences for young children and
  • How they can obtain a deeper understanding of how their values and beliefs around outdoor play impact children and their families.

We invite you to attend and share in this exciting opportunity to be inspired by our keynote speakers Beverlie Dietze and Rusty Keeler. We think you will find the four breakout sessions being offered on Saturday equally engaging, inspiring and informative. We hope you will join us for this year’s conference and look forward to seeing you in June! Register now, seating is limited!

Conference Program Schedule

Friday, June 1, 2018 (5 PD Hours)
8:00 Registration and Networking
9:00 Opening & Welcome
9:15 Feature Presenter – Beverlie Dietze
10:15 Nutrition Break
10:45 Feature Presenter – Beverlie Dietze
12:00 Lunch
1:00 Feature Presenter – Beverlie Dietze
2:15 Coffee Break
2:30 – 3:30 Feature Presenter – Beverlie Dietze
7:00 – 9:30 Awards and Recognition Gala
(This is a Reception only – not a dinner)

Saturday, June 2, 2017 (5.5 PD hours)
8:30 Registration and Networking
9:00 Opening & Welcome
9:15 Key Note Presenter- Rusty Keeler
10:15 Nutrition Break
10:45 Breakout Sessions
12:15 Lunch
1:30 Rusty Keeler Workshop
2:30 Coffee Break
2:45 Rusty Keeler Workshop continued
4:00 – 4:15 Closing Auction

We invite you to attend and share in this exciting opportunity to be inspired by our keynote speakers Beverlie Dietze and Rusty Keeler. We think you will find the four breakout sessions being offered on Saturday equally engaging, inspiring and informative. We hope you will join us for this year’s conference and look forward to seeing you in June! Register now, seating is limited!


Administrator’s Professional Development

Friday, June 1st, 2018 ~ Beverlie Dietze, Keynote & Workshop (5 Professional Development Hours)

Administrative risk considerations in providing programs that support outdoor play in the context of the NEW Nova Scotia Curriculum Framework.

BEVERLIE DIETZE is the Director of Learning and Applied Research at Okanagan College, Kelowna, BC. Prior to joining Okanagan College, Beverlie held teaching positions at universities in Nova Scotia and Ontario that focused on early childhood education and adult education and she has held senior leadership positions in colleges in New Brunswick and Ontario. She holds a BEd. from the University of New Brunswick, a Masters of Adult Education from St. Francis Xavier University, and a Ph.D. in Philosophy (Leadership) from the University of Toronto. Beverlie is the author of several articles on outdoor play, programming, and staff development, and co-author of four early childhood education textbooks. She is the lead researcher on a number of projects that support advancing outdoor play designs and programming. She attributes her passion and interest in outdoor play to her childhood in the woods and fields of New Brunswick.

Saturday, June 2nd, 2018 ~ Rusty Keeler, Keynote & Workshop (4 Professional Development Hours)

Exploring and developing programs and utilizing outdoor spaces.

Over the past 20 years, RUSTY KEELER has worked with hundreds of community, school, parks, university, and childcare leaders to dream, design, and construct beautiful outdoor environments for children in more than 30 states and throughout Canada, Europe, China, Australia, and New Zealand. He is one of the pioneers in the movement to reconnect children to nature and his designs reflect his sincere desire to create a more beautiful world in which to grow and explore. His passion and inspiration for outdoor play spaces has made him a popular and frequent keynote speaker and presenter at conferences, communities, and colleges worldwide. Rusty has authored a number of books including, “Natural Playscapes: Creating Outdoor Play Environments for the Soul” and “Seasons of Play: Natural Environments of Wonder” both of which will be available for purchase at the conference or pre-order.

Saturday June 2nd, 2018 ~ 10:45 – 12:15 Breakout Sessions

(1.5 Professional Development Hours)

Breakout Session A – “The PLEY Project”


Jane S. Cawley, Med. Educational Consultant

Michelle Stone, PhD Assistant Professor, School of Health and Human Performance, Division of Kinesiology, Dalhousie University

The Physical Literacy in the Early Years (PLEY) project at Dalhousie University is a research project funded by the Lawson Foundation. One aspect of the project is exploring how loose parts can be used to promote physically active, outdoor play in young children. The project is also gathering information from educators and families about attitudes regarding risk-taking in outdoor play.

Engaging children in active outdoor play has been identified as a public health priority. For children’s curiosity to be sparked and heightened, they require access to environments that offer freedom, wonderment, the opportunity to play with open-ended and natural materials, and the opportunity to take risks.

This participatory workshop will share details about the PLEY Project and explore strategies that educators can use to encourage active outdoor play in ways that are intentional yet child-directed. Participants will have a chance to observe actual preschoolers as they are introduced to simple physical tasks that will support physical literacy. Loose parts are provided so that participants can explore, and as they explore, imagine how these materials could be used to promote fundamental movement skills. Participants are encouraged to put aside their own anxieties relating to “safety” and find ways to honour risk-taking in children’s play as a necessary part of their learning.

Jane Cawley is an early childhood/adult educator with 45 years of experience working with children, families and educators. After retiring in 2016 Jane joined the Lawson Foundation funded Physical Literacy in the Early Years (PLEY) project at Dalhousie University. This has opened a door into the world of physical literacy, active outdoor play, and the benefits of risk taking. Jane can also be found teaching a course or two at NSCECE and at MSVU.

Michelle Stone’s research expertise is in children’s physical activity measurement, and the role of physical activity in children’s health and wellness and the prevention of chronic disease. Her more recent research initiatives have focused on assessing children’s physical literacy and exploring the role of outdoor play in children’s physical literacy development and physical activity behaviours. She is the Co-Pl of the Lawson Foundation funded Physical Literacy in the Early Years (PLEY) Project, which is supported by a multidisciplinary team of researchers, practitioners, educators, families, and children.

Breakout Session B – “Big Body Play”

Presenter: Leanne Thomey, BAA (CYC)

Leanne will explore big body play and movement and why it is so important for children. The workshop will also look at the risk involved and how programs can implement it in their program, as well as help parent to understand its importance through proper documentation.

Leanne Thomey holds a degree in Child and Youth Care from the University of Victoria and an Early Childhood Administrators Certificate from Mount Saint Vincent University. She has worked in the Early Childhood Education field for 15 years as a preschool teacher, family home consultant and owner and director of Fox Hollow Family Child Care Centre and Family Home Agency.

Breakout Session C – “Step out of Your Helicopter and Let the Children Play…”

Presenter: Lisa Harrietha-Benson, MA

There is more and more research and evidence showing that providing children with opportunities for risky play has many benefits but what happens if the thought of allowing children to do something that “may” cause injury puts you into a whirlwind of worry? How can educators and caregivers move past old ideas, anxieties or fears in order to provide children with opportunities for physical activity, risk, problem solving opportunities and excitement? This workshop will cover common fears about risky play, benefits of risk taking, risk-benefit assessment and tips on overcoming apprehension and letting the children play. We will brainstorm and do some photo study of “risky” behavior in the classroom and in the outdoor environment. The presenter will share her stories of how working with educators who truly valued risk as well as becoming a parent has helped her overcome some of her fears and “Step out of her Helicopter”.

Lisa Harrietha-Benson is a patient and caring early childhood educator with over 15 years of experience. She fosters emotional and academic growth through relationship building and play-based experience and works together with families to foster self-esteem. She is passionate and experience in working with children with special needs. Lisa holds a master’s degree in Child and Youth Study. She has been a guest lecturer at Mount Saint Vincent University and given seminars on Mindfulness with preschoolers, Enhancing Literacy experience, and Critical Thinking and Practicum Overview/Reflective Practice.

Breakout Session D – “Nature for Everyone”

Presenters Terri Kottwitz and Elizabeth (Liz) Hicks

Nature play should and can be available for everyone. It is essential for physical fitness, cognitive health and emotional well-being. Nature play has the power to enhance the quality of life for all of us. Risky play is an important part of this for all children. In this workshop we will be discussing and reflecting on the inclusion aspects of exploring risky play in nature.

Terri Kottwitz has been in the childcare field for almost three decades and is the Director of her own centre, ForestKids Early Learning. She is a Cedarsong Nature School certified Forest Kindergarten Teacher and a certified Forest and Nature School Practitioner from the Child and Nature Alliance of Canada.

Elizabeth (Liz) Hicks has been working in child care for over 35 years. She currently works as an independent consultant and supports early childhood practitioners in thinking about their programs and their goals for children.

Friday, June 1st, 2018 ~ 7:00-9:30

Awards and Recognition Gala Reception

The Nova Scotia Child Care Association and our partner the Certification Council of Early Childhood Educators Nova Scotia are hosting an Awards and Recognition Gala Reception, an event that recognizes Early Childhood Educators who have demonstrated exemplary practice in their work and service to children and families.

The evening includes a reception with hors d’oeuvres and cash bar, a silent auction, raffles, recognition activities and award presentations that include the Early Childhood Learning and Care (ECLC) Awards of Excellence for both Program and Practice; Childhood Education Commitment to Care Service Award; Child Care Awareness Days Award and the Early Childhood Care and Education 20+ Service Award.

Additional awards from other organizations may also be presented throughout the evening.

Nomination packages and application forms will be available March 2018. If you would like to nominate someone or apply please email info@nschildcareassociation.org and a package will be sent to you. Submission deadlines range from April 6st, 2018 to May 4th, 2018.



Book your stay at the DoubleTree early and save! Conference registrants will receive a special rate of $169 if booked prior to April 19th, 2018. Please identify yourself as an NSCCA conference participant when making your reservation.

Call 902-464-5420 and speak to Jessica to reserve your room!

Special Draws and Raffles!

There will be raffles and 50/50 draws in support of the NSCCA and CCECENS.

Silent Auctions: The Friday afternoon Auction will be open for viewing from noon – 3:00 pm. The Gala Auction will be open from 7:00 – 9:00 pm. Saturday’s Silent Auction will be open 9:00 am -1:30 pm.

Trade Show Exhibition

Trade Show Exhibition is always a great opportunity for ECE’s and directors to take a look at new trends in supplies and materials that will be showcased at the conference. Even if you cannot attend the conference you are invited to drop in during trade show public viewing hours. There are always lots of draws and give-a-ways so don’t miss out!

Trade Show Hours: Conference Participants

Friday, June 1st 12:00 – 1:30, 3:30 – 6:00
Saturday, June 2nd 8:30 – 9:00; 10:00 – 10:30; Noon – 1:30

Public Viewing

Friday June 1st 1:00 – 6:00
Saturday, June 2nd 10:30 – Noon

Subsidized Registration for Members of the NSCCA

There are a limited number of subsidized registrations available for Nova Scotia Child Care Association Members. If you are a current member and require a subsidized space, you can submit a letter in writing. Please indicate how the theme Exploring Risk in Outdoor Play would benefit you in your implementation of the standards of practice. The information provided by you will be used in our conference reporting. Your letter should be approximately 200 words and submitted by April 30, 2018. You will be contacted if you are approved for subsidy by May 12, 2018.

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