Conference Speakers 2016

Nature Play WA presents some of the world’s pre-eminent speakers on the impact of nature on children’s health, development and education at the Children and Nature Conference, bringing together leaders in paediatric immunology, public health policy, nature-based education, nature philanthropy and political engagement, MCed by comedian (and Friends of Nature Play WA Ambassador) Peter Rowsthorn.

Professor Susan Prescott - Keynote Speaker

Precis: Professor Susan Prescott, a paediatrician and internationally renowned specialist in childhood allergy and immunology, will take us on a journey into the world and science behind the modern allergy epidemic and the importance of bio-diversity to childhood health.  She will speak to the connection between our modern indoor lives and rise of non-communicable diseases which are increasingly affecting children and lay out the medicinal properties of early and regular exposure to nature.

Bio: Professor Prescott is internationally recognised as one of the leading researchers in the area of allergy and early immune development and the author of The Allergy Epidemic, a mystery of modern life; and, Origins, early-life solutions to the modern health crisis. She is a strong advocate for the health benefits of children connecting with nature.  Her studies on early immune development have been translated into novel concepts and lead to a paradigm shift in the pathogenesis of allergic disease. She is also chair and co-founder of the ‘DOHaD Consortium’ (Developmental Origins of Health and Disease) in Western Australia, and is leading the establishment of a regional ‘DOHaD’ Society in Australia and New Zealand. Find out more...

Dr Alan Logan - Keynote Speaker

Precis: Dr Alan Logan’s keynote will focus on the positive impact of natural environments on the human brain.  He will draw on a growing body of research in making the case that exposure to nature promotes positive emotions, increases mental energy, improves cognitive function and mental health, and has a positive influence on children who have been diagnosed with impulsivity, hyperactivity and attention-deficit disorder.  

Bio: Dr Logan is a Canadian researcher, naturopathic doctor, consulting science writer and member of the Harvard Natural Environments Initiative with a key focus on the health impacts of urbanisation and bio-diversity loss. He is also the author of two pioneering books on connection between human health and the natural world, The Brain Diet (2007); and Your Brain on Nature, the science of nature’s influence on your health, happiness, and vitality (2012).  Find out more...

Professor Lyn Beazley - Keynote Speaker

Precis: Professor Lyn Beazley is a passionate advocate for getting Australian children to love and learn science. In her keynote she will speak on the importance of children having positive experiences in nature to help them develop the fascination for the natural world that is the building block of curiosity and scientific mind. In a world facing growing climatic and ecological challenges the need to engage new generations in science is pressing and case for fostering a connection between children and the natural world has never been greater. 

Bio: Professor Beazley has dedicated over 30 years to neuroscience, researching recovery from brain injury and changing clinical practice in the treatment of premature infants. As Western Australia’s Chief Scientist from 2006 to 2013, Lyn advised governments on science and innovation, worked closely with industry and was a science ambassador in Australia and internationally. She was also named WA Australian of the Year for 2015.  Find out more...

Ben Klasky - Keynote Speaker

Precis: Ben Klasky will share insights from one of the world’s leading environmental education centres on the power of meaningful experiences in nature to unlock learning and inspire young minds. He will share the remarkable story of Islandwood, located on Bainbridge Island in the wild Puget Sound, along with the philosophy, science and philanthropy behind its success, and offer an educators perspective on link between nature and learning.   

Bio: Mr Klasky is an educator, a social entrepreneur, and the President and CEO of Islandwood, one of the world’s leading environmental education centres. Headquartered on Bainbridge Island near Seattle, Islandwood is an innovative US non-profit outdoor education organisation, with the core mission of creating meaningful learning experiences for urban children in nature.  Find out more...

Martin LeBlanc - Keynote Speaker

Precis: Martin LeBlanc has been at the forefront of the movement to reconnect children to nature for more than a decade. In his keynote he will share insights from some of America’s leading programs to reconnect children from underserved communities to nature, the transformative power those experience have, and the keys to engaging communities and garnering political support. 

Bio: The Senior Vice-President External Affairs with IslandWood Mr LeBlanc has successfully engaged the political process, all the way to The White House, in creating new opportunities to connect children to nature.

A founding Board Member of the Children in Nature Network and a former National Youth Outings Director at the Sierra Club (America’s largest and most influential environmental organisation) Mr LeBlanc is also Vice-President emeritus of the Children and Nature Network and a senior advisor to the Children and Nature Network's 'Natural Leaders' initiative that combines community organising and outdoor leadership certifications that empower the next generation. Find out more...

Daniel Burton - Concurrent Session Presenter

Precis: Nature provides multi-sensory experiences vital for healthy brain development! The diversity of natural environments and experiences provides positive and challenging sensory opportunities for children and adults alike. A strong foundation of these experiences not only helps children with sensory integration but also creates memorable learning experiences, engages creativity and problem solving, promotes relaxation and fosters intimacy and affection for nature. In this hands on session, Daniel will discuss some of the brain science behind developing more than the five basic senses, tell stories of sensory risk-taking from Educated by Nature programs and challenge participants with some sensory risk taking opportunities of their own.

Bio: Daniel Burton is a qualified primary school teacher and passionate nature connection mentor. He considers himself an advocate for connecting children with the natural world, following children’s inbuilt sense of wonder and curiosity as the vehicle to inspire the process of inquiry based learning. Having worked at Bold Park Community School for 10 years he has had experience developing, managing and coordinating outdoor classrooms and Wild Spaces with various age groups. Daniel has had the privilege of participating in conferences focused on nature-based education and 21st century teaching philosophies both locally and internationally. Currently, Daniel is the co-director of Educated by Nature which aims to provide Western Australian children, families and teachers opportunities to learn within nature.  Find out more...

Peter Rowsthorn - MC

Peter Rowsthorn is a high energy, fast-paced stand up comedian one minute and a measured character actor the next. A masterful MC of corporate and private functions, he has been performing his slick & blistering stand up for three decades.

Peter is an ambassador for the
Friends of Nature Play WA and is the membership program's Number One Ticket Holder.  He spent much of his childhood making his own fun.  “I was a 70s child, so we were not expected home until dinner time,” he says.  “We would run around the neighbourhood and make up things to do.”  But Peter takes a different approach to his children.  “Parents don’t have the courage to just let our kids go.  With screens being so engaging, it can be harder to get them out of the house. We need to find something different to get them outside.”  Find out more...

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