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Lisa Brown: A big heart that shapes little minds

Note: Some footage used in this video was filmed prior to the pandemic and may not depict social distancing measures.

Transcription – Lisa Brown – 2020 Prime Minister's Award for Teaching Excellence in Early Childhood Education

[Close-up of woman in an interview setting. Music playing.]

"My piece of advice to an aspiring, upcoming educator would be to make sure to know really if early childhood is their gig."

[Cut to photos, with voice over. Photos: Lisa sitting outside with three children reading a book; Lisa, a child, and dog walking on a trail covered in mud.]

"If that makes any sense, because if you love what you do, you'll never work a day in your life."

[Fade to black and then up to white with medium shot of woman, smiling, on the left side of the screen, with the following words appearing, line by line, on the right: Lisa Brown, Lisa's Playhouse Inc., Roachville, New Brunswick. Fade to black and then up to close-up of Lisa in the interview setting.]

"At our program here in Sussex we have 80 acres. I live there. It's my family land."

[Cut to photo, with voice over. Photo: Lisa and children outside in a forest dressed in winter clothes, sitting on a log with baskets.]

"It's a big deal for the staff that work here, plus the families that want to bring their children here."

[Fade to black and then up to Lisa in the interview setting.]

"The focus on being outside in our program is to allow the kids to be able to develop the interest – their interests on their own terms. They're able to when they go for hikes, or walks on the property they can just be themselves."

[Cut to photo, with voice over. Photo: Lisa and child outside climbing a rope ladder; Lisa and child sitting at a picknick table making bird feed out of pinecones; Lisa and children outside in the winter sitting around a fire.]

"And if they come into something that they're interested in we can stop and allow that time and space to be able to observe, and study that interest. Which is really, really cool. So they're learning in a more relaxed manner rather than on a timeline."

[Cut back to Lisa in the interview setting.]

"So they're learning in a more relaxed manner rather than on a timeline. My dream centre or my dream school would be a round building with each classroom having their own space, with their own washroom, and their own door to their outdoor environment. And it would be all solar heated. And wind-powered energy systems. And it would be all outdoor education pretty much with hammocks in the trees, and lots of fresh air. And a good, vibrant vegetable garden so that the children would learn how to know where their food came from."
[Fade to black and then up to Lisa in the interview setting.]

"We just implemented an online platform for professional development for the Province of New Brunswick. The platform is called Shining Lights on Early Childhood Education. And we are highlighting a presenter every month, and it's called a Mastermind. And the reason why I wanted to do this is because I wanted good professional development for my staff, and there wasn't much available in the province that was easy for us to get to. So I decided to brand Shining Light conferences. Shining Light on Early Childhood Education platform. So we just launched last week. So we're happy. We hope it goes well."

[Fade to black, with the Government of Canada FIP and then the Canada Wordmark appearing in white.]

Year: 2020 — Province: New Brunswick
Certificate of Excellence Recipient

Lisa's Playhouse & Tír na nÓg Forest School: Sussex
Early Learning Centre for children ages 0 to 12 years
Roachville, New Brunswick

Every time we had concerns, ideas or needed to speak about our son's development, it was always well received and listened to [by Lisa], which is what parents need—to be heard, to feel like we matter and our children matter.


Lisa Brown jumped into providing day care with both feet, starting with just two children. As her community's needs grew, she added rooms and hired staff so children could have the best education she could give them—all while earning her early childhood educator qualifications. Lisa also started an afterschool program in a nearby community and opened the first Forest school in Atlantic Canada. This led to another location opened by Tim Jones in Saint John as well continued interest and inquiries about her programs from all over the Maritimes.

Philosophy of care

Lisa's own childhood in the town where her centre is located inspired the three pillars of her approach: Children need to be nurtured by loving, caring people. Children need the chance to learn and grow in ways that suit them as individuals. Children need to experience the childhood she loved, including spending plenty of time outdoors.

Support of child development

  • Documents every child's interests, so she can help them learn in the way that is best for them and find the best story, experiment or information about something they like; she quickly researches new ideas when children don't respond to activities but love the topic they are exploring.
  • Develops or changes spaces and activities to make them more suitable for the children or to address the challenges they are facing: for example, a Gatorade bottle is filled with objects for four-year-olds to find, with slime and figures for two-year-olds and with coloured water and glitter to stimulate infants.
  • Follows a "less is more" approach after realizing that children were getting over-stimulated with too many toys; using simpler, eco-friendly items, knitted or made of wood, encourages children to use their imaginations.
  • Emphasizes outdoor play and learning through her forest school: children learn to be more independent and adventurous, spending their days outside, going to the brook that runs through Lisa's family's 100-acre property, looking for animal tracks and getting to know the local slugs.

Involvement with parents, families and the community

  • Started a litterless lunch program, so children, parents and co-workers will think about the impact of their choices on the planet; children often choose their snack based on how much waste it will generate.
  • Works with parents to get supports for their special needs children, including hiring aides that are perfect matches; parents concerned about their children fitting in find them welcomed with open arms, with the centre's furniture, play spaces and activities modified to ensure that all are included everywhere, every day.
  • Promotes community and intergenerational involvement: welcomes community members into the centre—including her own parents, who enjoy playing grandparent—to share their interests and skills, including gardening and music, and to take the children on hikes to find fiddleheads.
  • Created the Shining Light professional development conference for early child educators in Atlantic Canada, which received rave reviews from attendees and grew from 60 to 500 participants in just three years.

Get in touch!

Lisa's Playhouse & Tír na nÓg Forest School: Sussex
14 Ballymaginthy Way
Roachville NB  E4G 2X1

Facebook: @lisasplayhousenb

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