For many years I have had a dream. I dream about expanding opportunities for young children to be in and with nature on a regular basis. I have been dreaming since 2008. It was in 2008 that I was given a guided tour of Swan Lake, a remarkable and magical property in my hometown of Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada. It was in 2008 that the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) acquired the 50-acre property, known as Swan Lake, which is part of a critical ecosystem that is home to the headwaters of two rivers, plays an important role in protecting the drinking water of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). It is also part of the Jefferson Forest Environmentally Sensitive Area and is designated by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources as a provincially significant Area of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSI). Swan Lake contains mature upland forest, significant wetland and bog complexes and an undisturbed kettle lake, which connects with other publicly held properties, including TRCA’s Lake St. George Field Centre.
A Winter View of Lake St. George
In 2008, I was introduced to Nancy McGee, a TRCA part time employee and Masters student interested in the Reggio Emilia approach to early learning and she invited us to visit the site. There I met Darryl Gray, Senior Manager, Education at Toronto and Region Conservation (TRCA) and fell in love with Swan Lake and Nancy’s vision of Reggio inspired early nature learning. Years past and the dream for me started to fade. Fast forward six years later, Nancy, now the Supervisor of Education with TRCA and PhD student sent me an email to say that “time has allowed us to final move forward in both renovating the main building, as well as begin forming partnerships which reflect like-mindedness with regards to education, conservation, and the natural environment”. Another visit to Swan Lake and the many meetings and conversations later, the York Region Nature Collaborative (YRNC) was born when I realized that the vision was much greater than the place itself. As magical as it is Swan Lake, is a tiny spot on the map of York Region.
The Magical Swan Lake
The YRNC is a collaborative of early years organizations & associations committed to improving access to nature programs for people of all ages. While the collaborative was founded in York Region, membership and events are open to all interested educators, parents and families.
We invite you to visit the YRNC blog to help vote on a logo that will represent the dream going forward that involves all children especially the youngest.
The dream will always be about Swan Lake, which has become a guiding metaphor for my work. A metaphor involves applying a word or phrase to an object or concept, which it does not literally denote, in order to suggest comparison to another object or concept. Metaphors can be used as a tool for self-reflection. They help teachers to understand their practice when they examine their own metaphors of teaching and learning (Kashin, 2009). The dream that is Swan Lake is complex and represents something that connects and intertwines as we construct this vision into a movement that will bring about lasting change.
Metaphors help to deepen thinking. Inspired by a tapestry metaphor illustrated in Simon, (2013). The Weaving of a Tapestry: a Metaphor for Teacher Education Curriculum Development. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 38(8), we can envision the canvas of the future as being the result of a three-part process.
Are you one of the threads that will become the tapestry that is YRNC? Please support the mission and vision of the YRNC. Watch for our updates on this blog site about the YRNC, our latest action research project.
For more on metaphors and Reggio inspired practice see: http://www.pademelonpress.com.au/reggio-emilia-related-books/dancing-with-reggio-emilia-metaphors-for-quality.html