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'I follow the curiosity approach': ECE creating nature-based educational kits

When the COVID pandemic hit and Fawn Milligan St-Pierre was forced to close her home daycare, she began developing packages for kids learning at home

As the pandemic persists and many students go remote for their schooling, some parents find themselves scrambling to acquire outside resources to aid in their children’s education.

Fawn Milligan St-Pierre, a registered early childhood educator and owner of Ferngully Hollow's Educational Resources began putting together educational packages from home to assist children with continued learning beyond the “screen”.

St-Pierre ran a nature-based home daycare for several years after graduating from Centennial College. During her time as an ECE, she studied the curriculum at schools and within other daycares and hoped to one day open her own school that would focus on nature-based play and learning.

“The thing I love most about being an ECE is using the environment or creating environments for learning,” said St-Pierre.

St-Pierre took the National Geographic Course (a five-month online course that requires completion of an outdoor documentary), and also received her Forest Practitioner Certificate through the Child and Nature Alliance of Canada (a year-long course at Scanlon Creek).

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, St-Pierre’s home daycare was closed among many other businesses during lockdown. She began putting together learning-based packages to help parents keep education going at home with their kids.

“I’ve been collecting resources for over four years from daycare,” notes St-Pierre. “I have everything from crafts, books, games, counting-toys, puzzles and much more."

St-Pierre also started adding items found at local thrifts stores and antique markets to create themed units. Packages come in small, medium, or large and range from $40 to $60. 

“An example of one package is called 'space explorer', where they get a little telescope, glow-in-the-dark stars, a space puzzle, books about space, and more,” explained St-Pierre. “There’s always sensory components with every package."

All packages are made for kids from toddler to 12 years of age, and are based on the child’s individual interests.

Some of the packages include the 'Bob Ross', which comes with a painting set and Bob Ross puzzle and poster, Space Exploration, Loose Parts, Cooking, and Music. There are also geographical packages including The Arctic, Canada, London (UK), China, and more.

St-Pierre also has packages for different races and religions and can tailor packages for the client. All her packages are plastic-free and contain mostly wood and natural materials.

“I follow the curiosity approach,” shares St-Pierre. “Kids in the UK are taught to respect the toys and materials they are playing with… they don’t use plastic and instead they give them glass because they will see the effects of throwing glass. With a plastic piece, they will throw plastic and it won’t break so they don’t respect it."

St-Pierre goes out on “treasure hunts” once or twice a week, searching for items in good condition that would best fit a specific theme in one of her packages. She then washes everything when she gets home and makes up to five packages a day capturing all curriculum domains.

“I absolutely love hunting for treasures and those special finds that spark curiosity,” shares St-Pierre. “Each package contains counting/math, literacy, art, science, nature, and books… and all the books are realistic too – no Disney or Dora!”

Along with her educational packages, St-Pierre has business plans and proposals in the works to start a nature-based educational facility in the Nottawasaga area called the FernGully Hollow: Nature Conservation and Forest School. She hopes to open the school in 2023 and is looking for community support and sponsors to help with the project.

In the meantime, St-Pierre sells her packages out of her nature store set up in her basement and can be contacted through her Facebook page.  She even offers home delivery to Newmarket, Bradford, Barrie and Innisfil.



Jackie Kozak

About the Author: Jackie Kozak

Jackie Kozak is a reporter/writer whose work appears on both BradfordToday and InnisfilToday
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