Office for Children Receives Trailblazer Award

Contact for News Media:
Angela Morlu, Communications Specialist II
Department of Family Services
703-324-7528, TTY 703-222-9452

September 20, 2012

The Office for Children received the Fairfax County Park Authority's Good Neighbor Award on Sept. 18 at the Park Authority’s Annual Trailblazer Awards Ceremony. The award is bestowed upon an agency or organization for providing “exceptional support and cooperation” to the Park Authority.

This partnership began in October 2010 when staff in OFC’s Institute for Early Learning organized a conference for more than 200 child care professionals centered on the theme “Discovering Nature with Children.” Three Park Authority naturalists were invited to present the keynote address and lead two breakout sessions, respectively. Since then, OFC staff has worked with Suzanne Holland, assistant manager at Hidden Oaks Nature Center, to host multiple professional development classes on-site for early childhood educators. This collaboration continues this fall with the class “Outdoor Play Every Day.”

Holland also worked with OFC child care specialists to provide a statewide audio-conference in conjunction with the Virginia Infant & Toddler Specialist Network. Holland presented strategies that early childhood educators can use to incorporate nature education experiences for children ages birth-3 years.

“Children who have positive nature experiences before age 7 are more likely to maintain an appreciation for nature,” said Holland. “Academic readiness, pediatric depression, ADHD, and childhood obesity are all issues that can be positively impacted by getting unplugged and playing outdoors.”

Through this OFC-Park Authority collaboration hundreds of early childhood professionals have learned strategies to encourage children’s outdoor exploration and support children’s curiosity about the natural world.

Betsi Closter, OFC School Readiness coordinator said “The Office for Children is committed to providing professional development opportunities to early care and education professionals. We are delighted to do this in partnership with the Park Authority.”


Carol Keil (center) of the Office for Children accepts the Trailblazer
Good Neighbor Award from Hidden Oaks Nature Center
Assistant Manager Suzanne Holland, and
Fairfax County Park Authority Director John W. Dargle, Jr.





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