Media card for the final evaluation report of The Lawson Foundation’s Outdoor Play Strategy 2.0. The left side features an image of four individuals sitting outdoors, dressed warmly in jackets and hats, smiling and holding hands, with one person covered by a yellow and black plaid blanket. The right side contains text about the strategy, stating: 'The Lawson Foundation’s Outdoor Play Strategy 2.0 supported eight projects across Canada over three years to build adult capacity in Early Learning and Child Care (ELCC). This final evaluation report shares learning about embedding outdoor play in professional learning, building capacity in ELCC programs, and aligning multi-sector efforts for impact. The report offers four calls to action to apply this learning in your context. The bottom section has the title 'The Power of a Relational, Values-Driven Approach to Building Adult Capacity - Final Evaluation Report of Outdoor Play Strategy 2.0' along with logos of Taylor Newberry Consulting and Lawson Foundation.

The Lawson Foundation is proud to announce the release of “The Power of a Relational, Values-Driven Approach to Building Adult Capacity: Final Evaluation Report of Outdoor Play Strategy 2.0.” a comprehensive evaluation highlighting the significant strides made in promoting outdoor play in early learning and child care (ELCC) settings across Canada.

Since 2013, the Lawson Foundation has engaged in a phased Outdoor Play Strategy, building on the scientific evidence that establishes early childhood education (ECE) and outdoor play as critical for healthy child development. 

Phase 2 of the Lawson Foundation’s Outdoor Play Strategy (OPS 2.0) sought to build adult capacity to impact outdoor play in early learning and child care (ELCC) and nurture systemic change through a three-year granting initiative which supported eight projects across Canada, each contributing to a shared vision of enhancing outdoor play through systemic change.

“The findings of this report show the important role of a values-driven approach in achieving meaningful change,” says Cathy Taylor, President & CEO of the Lawson Foundation. 

“By equipping educators with the skills and confidence to embrace outdoor play, by supporting organizational change within programs, and by fostering collaborative efforts across sectors, we can create a supportive and sustainable ecosystem that supports outdoor play in ELCC settings and benefits children, families, educators, and communities.”

Key Findings: The report evaluates OPS 2.0 and documents how and to what degree the Strategy and its eight projects impacted capacity at every level of the outdoor play ecosystem—individual, organizational, and systems.

  • Embedding Outdoor Play in Professional Learning Programs: Projects created new curricula and developed innovative teaching approaches, including outdoor settings, learner-centred methods, and ongoing coaching. These efforts led to new skills and deeper investment in outdoor teaching values among learners, with some institutions embedding these training programs sustainably.
  • Building Capacity in ELCC Programs: Projects aimed to increase capacity for outdoor play by training staff, redesigning play spaces, engaging parents, and changing organizational policies. Despite challenges like limited resources and the pandemic, these efforts resulted in significant improvements in practice and culture, with many ELCCs developing new outdoor play policies and lasting changes to outdoor spaces.
  • Aligning Multi-Sector Efforts: Multi-sector collaboration brought together partners from various sectors, forming deep, trust-based relationships emphasizing quality and decolonizing practices. Through these efforts, projects collectively built networks totalling over 700 people across Canada interested in promoting outdoor play, including professionals from ELCCs, post-secondary institutions, governments, and the broader non-profit sector, all committed to promoting outdoor play.

The report also offers four calls to action for stakeholders throughout Canada’s outdoor play ecosystem as they continue this important work:

  1. Lean into values to drive quality and change.
  2. Equip and empower people at all levels.
  3. Strengthen organizational culture through collaboration.
  4. Nurture an ecosystem approach for long-term impact.

About the Lawson Foundation:

The Lawson Foundation is a Canadian family foundation that invests in and engages with ideas, people, and organizations that contribute to the healthy development of children and youth. 

We encourage you to read and share the report. You can find the full final report PDF here, as well as the executive summary here.

*Note: A French translation of the report will be available in September 2024.

Christine Alden

Christine Alden

Program Director at The Lawson Foundation
Christine has been with the Lawson Foundation as Program Director in the areas of Early Child Development and Outdoor Play since 2012. She received her PhD, which focused on outdoor pedagogy in Early Learning and Child Care, from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education / University of Toronto in 2022.

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