This year marks Canada’s 150th birthday! Celebrations across the country are highlighting our great outdoors. At a time when most children spend less than an hour per day outside, we’re asking everyone to

EarthPLAY for Earth Day 2017: Connect to your nature!

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Connecting Kids to Nature Through Play

What is EarthPLAY?

EarthPLAY is our new program that puts outdoor, unstructured free play back into the lives of children at school, in parks and on neighbourhood streets. Our EarthPLAY program for schools is called OPAL and is focused on making sure we allot the time, space and materials needed for enriched outdoor play during recess, lunch and after-school hours.

It’s Time to Reclaim Recess and Outdoor Play!

Outdoor play is essential to natural childhood development
Outdoor, unstructured free play is essential to whole child development and connects kids to their inner nature and surrounding environment!

Recess is often the only time kids have for outdoor play
For many children, recess, lunch and after-school hours are the only times available for outdoor, unstructured free play – this time is something we all must protect and support!

Play and nature connection are important themes in 2017
2017 marks Canada’s 150th birthday and nature connection is a fundamental theme of the official celebrations. Also in 2017, Canada is hosting the International Play Association conference in Calgary – outdoor free play at schools is a core focus of this event.

Hear our Director of Play talk about our Earth Day 2017 campaign for schools!

HOW to EarthPLAY for Earth Day

Hold an Extra or Extended Recess!

Demonstrate your school’s commitment to outdoor free play by holding an extended or extra recess. For a large percentage of schools in Canada, recess is a diminishing resource due to time constraints, weather, other learning priorities, concerns around perceived risk, the devaluation or growing unfamiliarity with outdoor free play, etc. Our OPAL (Outdoor Play and Learning) program is working directly with schools to overcome these challenges and support enriched, self-directed play. So for EarthDay 2017, we are asking schools to reclaim recess and the role of outdoor free play in the development of children across the country!

Host an Adventure Play Day!

Earth Day Canada has been working with schools to restore and revitalize their outdoor play (recess, lunch hour and after school play times) through our new OPAL (Outdoor Play and Learning) program. OPAL works with schools to support and enrich play opportunities through the development of a “loose parts” program. With materials, both natural and upcycled, students transform their schoolyards into adventure playgrounds, where all sorts of neat and unexpected things can be created, constructed and organized. Loose parts provide children enriched opportunities for many types of imaginative play and naturally promote higher levels of activity, creativity and collaboration.

Not sure what an Adventure Play Day involves? Watch this video!

Sony EarthPLAY for Earth Day Contest!

Sony Canada and Earth Day Canada’s EcoKids want to see your school EarthPLAY to win! Ten schools will win a Sony action camera, with one school also winning our grand prize, a custom EarthPLAY Play Fest! Our experienced team will consult with your staff beforehand to determine your outdoor play needs, then come in person to your school to host and facilitate an entire day of enriched play with loose parts. We will also conduct a quick site inspection and offer some best practices for your school to continue this kind of play moving forward. And you will receive an EarthPLAY starter kit, too!

EarthPLAY for Earth Day TIMELINE

Register your EarthPLAY event anytime between April 1st and April 22nd. ( Registration form available here )

Host your EarthPLAY school celebration anytime during Earth Week ( April 17th – 21st ).

Earth Day ( April 22nd ) 2017 falls on a Saturday this year, so we will be promoting EarthPLAY in schools on Friday, April 21st.

Send in a photo or video of your EarthPLAY event by April 30th to be entered into the draw to win prizes.

Want to hear first-hand how positive an impact our play program (OPAL) has had for participating schools? Check out some testimonials in this new video.

Our goal is to have 200,000 students engaged in Outdoor Play and Learning by 2020!

EarthPLAY for Earth Day 2017 TOOL KIT

In this tool kit, you will find…

Campaign posters, which will help promote your EarthPLAY for Earth Day event. There are two to choose from depending on anticipated weather and the type of event you are planning.

A list of “loose parts” and guidance on how to collect these, along with a poster to help promote your school’s collection efforts.

A guide to Playing Outside in All Weather – especially handy if you anticipate heavy rain or snow.

Communications materials (newsletter content, morning announcements, Facebook and Twitter messaging) to promote and explain your EarthPLAY event.

Tips for engaging your school community, which will help to rally engagement and participation in the event.

An extended explanation of what EarthPLAY is and why it is important at schools, along with photos and other visual collateral.

Check out our campaign video, just for schools!

Photos of EarthPlay in Action

Why EarthPLAY is Important

Play connects us to our nature.  All animals play outdoors with their peers in their various habitats. A key habitat where most children spend time with their peers is at school. Schools naturally provide time and space for outdoor play – so let’s get outside and use it!

Play fosters a meaningful connection to the environment. The more time children and youth spend playing in their environment , the more likely they are to grow into adults motivated to protect it.

Play promotes health and wellbeing. The 2015 ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth calls for “an increased investment in natural play spaces in all neighbourhoods” and explicitly asks federal and provincial governments to find ways to improve children’s access to risky active play in nature and the outdoors.

Play is a child’s right. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by Canada in 1991, affirms children’s right to self-directed play and unstructured leisure time. It also highlights data showing that our children are suffering from a deficit of outdoor activity and play.

Why it Matters for Schools

Research shows that outdoor, self-directed play supports the development of the whole child – cognitive, social, emotional and physical skills – and contributes to school success.

The average child will spend 8 years in school from Kindergarten to Grade 6. While most of that time is dedicated to curriculum, 1.4 years of that school time is spent outdoors during recess and lunch. This is valuable time for hands-on learning and enriched exploration that goes beyond monkey bars and slides.

When we improve the opportunities for outdoor play at school, both children and schools benefit. Children who play are ready to learn; they experience fewer behaviour problems and have a more positive attitude toward school. Schools that plan for great play spend less time dealing with unnecessary problems and experience fewer playground incidents.

Questions about our 2017 campaign or toolkit? Email

Questions about  hosting an Adventure Play Day at your school? Email