Brenda Simon, EarthDay Canada
Brenda Simon is a graduate of the law and environmental studies program at York University and later studied education at the University of Toronto. She has worked as a human rights lawyer, a co-op housing developer and in community education.
However, neither work nor academics prepared her for the Sisyphean labours required to arrange daily play-dates, play-groups and play outings for her two children and their friends, the desperate requests of their school mates to be included in these after-school outings, the hours of trekking through the neighbourhood loaded down with backpacks and arriving home hungry and exhausted with children that still had several hours of energy to burn.
Seeking help from the local Boys and Girls Club, Brenda discovered an astonishing level of fear among management, who claimed that staff were not trained to supervise play in park settings, although it was agreed that outdoor play would be best for the children. Fear and risk avoidance outweighed every consideration of the children’s health, emotional and social development, their need for fresh air and spontaneity after a full day of school. There were no programs or methods for managing the perceived risks.
Contemplating the very complex matrix of factors contributing to the loss of robust and reliable outdoor play experiences for children, Brenda researched the profession of play work, play policy and planning in the U.K., Germany and Denmark and piloted POP UP Adventure Play in Toronto for two years before joining Earth Day Canada as the Director of Play Programs.