International Early Childhood experts to address GMIT virtual conference on Outdoor Play "Leave no stone unskipped"

Monday, March 22, 2021 Press Office
Press Release

GMIT and Children and Young People's Services Committee co-host virtual event on 26 and 27 March for educators, parents and researchers

GMIT Mayo and the Children and Young People’s Services committee (CYPSC), Mayo, will host a two-day virtual conference on 26 and 27 March on the theme of Outdoor Play, titled “Leave No Stone Unskipped”, for educators, parents, students, researchers and policy makers.

The event aims to highlight the value of free, unstructured play outdoors and will be addressed by leading international experts in early childhood education and care such as Angela Hanscom (USA), author of “Balanced and Barefoot: How Unrestricted Outdoor Play Makes for Strong, Confident, and Capable Children”; Tim Gill (UK), independent scholar, advocate and consultant on childhood; Áine Bird (Ireland), Burrenbeo Trust, Co. Galway (since 2012); and Tristan Gooley (UK), bestselling author and “natural navigator” who set up his natural navigation school in 2008.

A number of exciting virtual workshops will also take place, delivered by Margaret Flaherty, Supervisor Guide with the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) overseeing visitor and education services at Wild Nephin Ballycroy and Connemara National Parks; Avril Grufferty, owner of Outdoor Explorers Preschool where she works and introduces little explorers every day; and Martina Killian, final year student on the Outdoor Education at GMIT Mayo and qualified florist who is a passionate small holding farmer growing vegetables and some of her own flower supply. The conference will feature a poster presentation where early childhood education and care students will offer ideas to educators and parents in relation to transient art, loose part play, nature play and place-based learning.

The event is jointly organised by Georgia MacMillan, graduate of GMIT Mayo and Co-founder of Terra Firma, a social enterprise for outdoor learning, and Mary Skillington, assistant lecturer on the Early Childhood Education and Care programmes, GMIT Mayo Dept of Nursing, Health Sciences and Social Care.  Mary Skillington believes “Children need freedom to follow their curiosity to explore and the space to develop motor skills and make judgement calls for themselves. Authentic play is a state of being which can be accessed by everyone and is as important as sleep. Free unstructured play outside in nature helps build happy, healthy and resilient children.” 

GMIT previously hosted an Outdoor Play conference in 2019 and a number of play days for families in the Woodland Trail at GMIT, in addition to a wide range of workshops related to the outdoors for students, parents, teachers and the wider community.

The GMIT Mayo and CYPSC Mayo event is funded by Healthy Ireland. The free conference starts on Friday 26 March at 7pm and runs all day Saturday, 27 March. It is open to the public as well as educators, academics, researchers and parents. Registration is via Eventbrite For more information visit and

For further information about the GMIT Early Childhood Education and Care programmes, visit: and


Issued by Regina Daly, GMIT Communications & Press Officer, GMIT, Dublin Road, Galway.
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