For parents eager to steer their little ones away from screens, Amanda Murphy and Harpreet Gill want to move kids toward a better picture: a view of the outdoors.
Next month, the pair will begin a nature program with the city of Port Coquitlam to show 3, 4 and 5 year olds how great learning and playing in the fresh air can be.
Murphy, a former Girl Guide who grew up in the Okanagan, relocated to Vancouver for a film job and “now spends most of my weekends camping,” got the seed for her Wildchild Outdoor Learning after working at Yaletown Montessori in Vancouver.
When Murphy started a garden there and taught the kids about where food comes from, “it sparked a fire in me,” she said. “I knew I wanted to be outside with them.”
She obtained her Early Childhood Education certificate in 2012 and later landed at Douglas Park Preschool in Vancouver where she met Gill, who also has her ECE plus a degree from the University of Victoria in the child and youth care program.
During a transition at the preschool, Murphy and Gill decided to take the leap with Wildchild Outdoor Learning and pitched the business to various municipalities; however, many didn’t have a parks permits system in place to accommodate it.
“It was hard to find people who are just as passionate as you to make it a go.”
Last year, PoCo recreation supervisor Janis Dancs signed onto their proposal, offering up Lions Park as the base. Though the program isn’t a licensed daycare, they still had to go through all the checks with Fraser Health Authority officials.
There is no curriculum, Murphy stressed. If it’s raining, the shovels and buckets come out; and if the weather is nice, they’ll find leaves and branches to learn how to count and talk about trees, for example. “There’s lots to explore,” the Burnaby resident said. “We’ve basically got a classroom but without any walls. We’re immersing them in the outdoors without giving them tons of information. It’s fun.”
Tri-City mother Nadine Diner said the WildChild nature program is a good fit for her family as she is an biologist and educator. “[I’m] glad to see this program coming to fruition in the Tri-Cities,” she wrote in an email to The Tri-City News last month.
The two-hour sessions are capped at 10 children each and run five days a week, in the mornings and afternoons. To sign up, visit the city’s website at experienceit.ca (barcode #37621) or email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
Meanwhile, the city of Coquitlam also has a nature play and learn program starting next month, at Mundy Park for ages 3 to 5, Mondays and Wednesdays from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Visit signmeup.coquitlam.ca (barcode #651739). And the city of Port Moody has Preschool Explorers (barcode #76843) and The Wonder of Nature (#77004) at the rec complex, Thursday and Friday mornings. Go to portmoody.ca.