I am excited to announce that in three weeks I will be embarking on a coast-to-coast speaking and workshop tour of Canada. It will take in BC (Vancouver and Victoria), Alberta (Lethbridge and Calgary), Ontario (Niagara and Toronto) and Halifax, Nova Scotia. There is a near-final itinerary near the end of this post.
Why the trip? For my part, it is an opportunity to debate the shrinking horizons of childhood: a story that has been unfolding across the English-speaking world. My Canadian collaborators and clients have invited me to share my views on the need for a more balanced, thoughtful approach to risk; for more contact with nature; and for more child-friendly communities that allow children and young people to expand their horizons and learn through play, outdoor exploration and everyday adventures.
So what are the issues that most concern Canadian outdoor educators and play advocates, and what might my input bring to the table? I would welcome your answers to these questions (you know where to head). And I will offer some initial thoughts of my own.
Stories of risk aversion and its impact on children’s lives are as topical in Canada as they are in the UK. Here, we read news stories of police stopping children from building dens in the woods and schools banning children from having best friends because they might get upset. Across the Atlantic the stories are of councils banning those most Canadian of pursuits, tobogganing in parks and street hockey.
In the face of stories like these, my message is simple: what is needed is a balanced, thoughtful approach to risk, and people with the vision and drive to build that approach throughout society. That means parents, educators, advocates, regulators, legislators and opinion formers: anyone who has any role in childhood and influence over children’s day-to-day lives. I hope that the successes we have achieved here in the UK will show that there is nothing inevitable about what I called in my book No Fear the zero-risk mindset.
Other related topics will also feature, including need to reconnect children with nature, the value of free play, and the challenge of creating more child-friendly communities. I am looking forward to hearing about how Canadians are tackling these issues.
Regular followers of this website will know that I have been on speaking tours to Australia on a number of occasions. While the climate may be rather different in Canada, my hunch is that the story will be very similar. Growing numbers of adults are asking themselves: how has a country whose playful, adventurous spirit is at the heart of its self-identity become so confused and fearful about its children’s everyday freedoms?
Mon 4 May 7 – 9 pm
North Vancouver: talk on risk and play for North Vancouver Recreation & Culture Commission
Tue 5 May 9:30 am – 3:30 pm
Vancouver: talk on risk for Wild About Vancouver & partners
Weds 6 May am
Victoria: keynote and workshop on risk for BC Rec & Parks Association symposium [pdf brochure]
Fri 8 May eve
Lethbridge: Keynote at University of Lethbridge conference on childhood
Mon 11 May am/pm
Calgary: two events (on risk and child-friendly cities) for City of Calgary [links to follow, or contact me]
Tues 12 May pm/eve
Calgary: Two events (on play policy and nature) for City of Calgary [links to follow, or contact me]
Weds 13 May eve
Niagara: talk on risk, play and early learning for Early Childhood Community Development Centre
Thurs 14 May 6 – 9 pm
Toronto: talk on play, risk and the child-friendly city for Play By Nature [Facebook link]
Sun 17 May 2:30 – 4 pm
Halifax: talk on risk and play for Halifax and Stepping Up Halifax [Facebook link]
Tues 19 May 10 am – 3 pm
Halifax: Practitioner talk and panel on risk and play for Halifax and Stepping Up Halifax