As Bienenstock’s Director of Education, Jill is part of an exciting team that designs and creates natural playgrounds. She focuses on finding ways to extend curriculum outdoors, making learning simple and fun for both children and educators.
Jill holds degrees in early childhood education from Concordia University and George Brown College and has 15 years of hands-on experience working with children with special needs. She worked for 12 years at Holland Bloorview’s ‘Play and Learn’, an integrated preschool program and three years at Chedoke Children’s Hospital in Hamilton, Ontario. Her professional passion is making education work for all children of all abilities. She has an amazing ability to see who a child is and what they need, rather than merely the name of the child’s disability. In particular, Jill brings to natural play spaces her experiences working within a therapeutic system in which a sensory approach was integrated into all activities. She has worked alongside occupational, physio, and speech and language therapists and, over time, has combined their methods with her nature-first pedagogy.
Jill feels strongly that lack of time outdoors has affected children’s physical development, which in turn, has affected the physical foundations and prerequisites needed for learning the cognitive and social-emotional skills needed for kindergarten and the primary years. Research has indicated more children are having sensory processing issues (Hanscom 2016). More children are entering kindergarten with poor core strength, balance, and coordination resulting in an unbalanced sensory system where children are clumsy and impulsive and have difficulties focusing whether they are inside or out (Johnson, 2009, Hanscom 2016). Natural playgrounds provide a multi-sensory environment that engages all five senses. Additionally, they provide vestibular and proprioceptive input that enables children to get what they need to grow and flourish. Our natural playgrounds also provide many creative, cognitive, social and dramatic opportunities. They are amazing learning environments that are critical to a child’s learning, health, and happiness.