WinSport helping children thrive in unique Early Explorers program

A child’s mental and physical development is crucial between the ages of three to five, which is why WinSport took the steps to create an Early Childhood Development (ECD) program called Early Explorers.

Recent studies of ECD indicate that over 50 percent of children entering Kindergarten in Alberta are not developing appropriately in the key areas of development. (EcMap Project, 2014)

The Early Explorers program builds the physical and cognitive development of children in an engaging indoor and outdoor environment.
The Early Explorers program builds the physical and cognitive development of children in an engaging indoor and outdoor environment.

As WinSport has been a pioneer in programming, the organization began to carefully look at how it can address this issue and build the physical and cognitive development of children through sport. The idea to create the program was inspired from WinSport’s legacy, which was formed by relentless, bold, and fearless individuals. The organization’s goal is to continue that legacy by creating the next generation of leaders – children who will make an impact and continue to inspire their community.

Previously, WinSport’s focus has been on children over the age of 5, but the Early Explorers program now allows the organization to address the crucial development of children in earlier ages.

To build the program, WinSport worked with the First 2000 Days Network. This group of early childhood experts are tapping into the science, stating 85 percent of the brain’s wiring happens between the ages of 0 and 5. (Alberta Family Wellness Initiative, 2011).

“WinSport’s early childhood programming embraces children’s inquisitive nature and creates opportunities to support and enhance their rapid development,” explains Hollie Cressy, Manager of Sport Development who helped create the Early Explorers program. “We believe children are strong, capable individuals and we value their ability to boldly discover the world around them and fearlessly return to nature and the outdoors.”

The outdoor play component of our ECD program is complimented by the newly designed calm and nurturing indoor learning space in the Markin MacPhail Centre.

“This engaging indoor and outdoor learning environment will stimulate children’s curiosity and sense of wonderment by providing experiences with sporting equipment, nature-based play, obstacle courses, and other activities,” Cressy explains. “In our program we intentionally design stimulating environments that will promote active play and sparks them to explore which ultimately motivates them to move. Another important element is the equipment we put in these spaces and environments. We will have logs, stumps and branches that children will engage with – this leads to developing fundamental movement skills including balance, coordination, jumping, crawling and running.”

Cressy also says another unique part of the program is that children are encouraged to lead their own learning.

“The day-to-day curriculum outcomes are not pre-determined, but rather child-led, allowing them to explore the world around them and guide their own discoveries through dramatic play, art, indoor learning centres like a sand table and a weaving station. Children will spend a large portion of their time outdoors in a variety of weather conditions as this will help build their resilience and creativity within this environment.”

The program will be facilitated by Early Childhood Educators with a minimum of a diploma in Early Childhood Education.

Parent Jennifer Nahu provided insight on the development of the program.

“I had the pleasure to see the time, consideration, learning and effort that has been put into this space and into creating a unique program for Calgary children,” Nahu explains. “WinSport has created an engaging program that will have children learning about the world around them with an emphasis on physical movement nestled in a space that only WinSport can offer. Children will be immersed in movement exploration and sport with a big outdoor component. I am personally excited for my own preschool child to experience this one.”

The six-week program features both once and twice per week options. In its pilot year, the program will run until the end of June. For more information, visit: https://www.winsport.ca/lessonsprograms/earlychildhood.cfm

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