Children’s wellness: outdoor learning during Covid-19 in Canada

Anne Burke* (Corresponding Author), Sylvia Moore, Laura Molyneux, Ayla Lawlor, Terri Kottwitz, Ginny Yurich, Renee Sanson, Ola Andersen, Breanne Card, Education in the North

*Corresponding author for this work

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Outdoor learning has been a topic of recent discussion due to the Covid-19 global pandemic, which led to the closure of many schools, daycares, and regular programming, and the negative repercussions that affect children. Here, we consider the changing practices related to outdoor learning and Indigenous land-based learning during the pandemic, and the implications for children’s wellbeing, development and learning. Indigenous culture, relating to traditional learning and knowledge, and cultural connections to the land, is also considered to interrogate how outdoor, nature-based, and on the land experiences affect community wellness. This paper draws on interviews with the leaders of two forest schools, Cloudberry Forest School and ForestKids, and the creator of the 1000 Hours Outside Program. Common themes, such as ‘nature as the teacher’ (trust regulation), environmental stewardship, social cohesion, physical and mental well-being, and Indigenous’ ways of knowing were identified across the interviews. This study reveals practical implications for teachers regarding the importance of access to nature based free play children’s development, and the importance of land- based education for Indigenous children.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24-45
Number of pages23
JournalEducation in the North
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 28 May 2021

Bibliographical note

We acknowledge and thank Laura Molyneux, the Executive Director of Cloudberry, Terri Kottwitz, Director of Forestkids and Ginny Yurick, the founder of the global programme 1000 Hours Outside for their collaborations. This article draws on research supported by the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.


  • early years
  • Indigenous culture
  • outdoor education
  • play-based learning
  • nature-based learning


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