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Pietra Salemi: Helping children discover a love of nature

Year: 2020 — Province: Ontario
Certificate of Achievement Recipient

Discovery Child Care Centre
Licensed child care centre for children ages 6 weeks to 12 years
Barrie, Ontario

Pietra was the most outstanding mentor any educator, child, or family could have in their life. Her kind, nurturing, and attentive disposition always offers any individual the safe place to learn, grow, and be themselves.


Fluent in Italian, and with experience teaching in Estonia and elsewhere, Pietra Salemi helps both children and teachers explore new ideas. Her young charges in the toddler room enjoy activities as diverse as rock climbing, gardening and yoga, and Pietra's efforts to help children manage the risks of outdoor play were profiled in a textbook. Open to experimentation herself, she also mentors colleagues on the latest pedagogical techniques.

Philosophy of care

Pietra embraces her centre's emphasis on nature- and play-based learning. She helps children explore the centre's 0.8-hectare property, which includes mud kitchens, a sound garden, "messy materials" areas and more. She also brings everything from caterpillars to snow into her classroom, so children can learn through hands-on indoor activities.

Support of child development

  • Tailors approach to each child: for two siblings, encouraged one to take appropriate physical risks to improve gross motor skills; helped the other learn new vocabulary through songs combining words and gestures; many parents comment on marked improvements in their children.
  • Introduced Journey Books: colleagues document each child's progress in a book that goes with the child throughout his or her time at the centre; the initiative was featured in a textbook.
  • Helped toddlers understand death when the class's pet fish, Midnight, died: researched ways to discuss the animal's passing with young children; explained what happened; created a book about Midnight; inspired families to document and share their own losses.
  • Ensures equity for children with special needs: has created safe spaces for shy and non-verbal children, as well as children with Down syndrome or life-threatening allergies, so they can participate fully in class activities.

Involvement with parents, families and the community

  • Updates parents frequently: provides a detailed daily report, and shares information weekly via social media, blog posts and a newsletter.
  • Encourages families' input: posts chart paper outside the classroom door where parents can write down their feedback.
  • Builds connections with Indigenous communities: coordinates Orange Shirt Day activities and helps children share their thoughts about the day and what it means; ran a food drive for a local native friendship centre.
  • Trains colleagues from other centres: helped organize her centre's Joy in Nature-Based Pedagogy Conference, at which educators learned ways to bring nature into their classrooms.

Get in touch!

Discovery Child Care Centre
101 Harvie Road
Barrie ON  L4N 4C9

Facebook: @DiscoveryChildCareCentre
Twitter: @Discovery_Child

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