6 Canadians recognized for outdoor play leadership role

Meet 6 amazing Canadians who have demonstrated exceptional and sustained leadership for the promotion of outdoor play in Canada. They were recently recognized for their efforts during the Outdoor Play Canada Breath of Fresh Air Summit, held in September 2023.

Read their full stories on the Outdoor Play Canada website.

Beverlie Dietze – Honour Award

Dr. Beverlie Dietze (middle) has promoted outdoor play in early childhood education her entire career. She has worked in post-secondary institutions across Canada, published textbooks and peer-reviewed articles, and travelled the country delivering professional learning about outdoor play and consulting services. Her textbook, Foundations of Early Childhood Education (2006), was the first in Canada to include outdoor play.


Megan Zeni – Dr. Mariana Brussoni Award

Megan Zeni is a teacher in nature and a tireless outdoor play advocate. She is a whole systems thinker who offers mentorship and leadership with pedagogical applications of outdoor play and learning in the elementary school context. Megan is an inspiration to all who are fortunate enough to see her in action and learn from her knowledge, experience and stories. Through over 25 years of experience teaching in urban public elementary schools who has located her teaching outdoors, Megan has cultivated a deep understanding of how to thoughtfully take education outdoors, including a visceral appreciation for the importance of supporting risky play in learning experiences.

Laura Molyneux and Cloudberry Forest and Nature School – Policy award

In 2013 Laura & her future business partner, Nora Trask, participated in one of the first Canadian Forest School Practitioner Courses in Sussex, New Brunswick. This life changing experience generated fire in Laura and passion in her heart. Shortly thereafter, Cloudberry Forest School was developed and opened its doors in 2014 as a pilot summer program for preschool aged children. Since then, they have been leading the effort in Canada to license outdoor play programs, serving as a model and source of inspiration for the other provinces and territories.

Dorothy Penner – Practice award

Dorothy Penner is a leader and mentor in the field of outdoor play. She runs the Kids Run Wild Youth and School programs with Edmonton Overlanders Orienteering Club, which teach people how to use maps to explore nature.



Mariana Brussoni – Research award

Dr. Mariana Brussoni is a leading researcher, pioneer and advocate for the importance of outdoor and risky play for healthy childhood growth and development. Dr. Brussoni’s research has covered a wide array of issues in the field of risky outdoor play, including parent and practitioner attitudes related to risk and safety (and how to enact behaviour change among these groups); developmental importance of children’s risky play; design of children’s communities, learning, and play spaces; and policy to support children’s outdoor play.


Xandria Reece- Youth Award

Xandria Reece is one of the founding staff members of the Ottawa Outdoor Gear Library. In that role, Xandria has supported individuals and groups from partner organizations to experience new outdoor activities.

As a coordinator of the Pinecrest Queensway Community Health Centre’s youth mentorship program for Black youth, “Together We Can”, as well as the Centre’s youth girls program “United Sisters”, Xandria has facilitated outdoor activities, learn to x-country ski sessions, and park animation with a variety of gear.


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