Dr. Magdalena Rudkowski receives Dean's Convocation Medal

June 06, 2016

As one of SFU's most outstanding graduate students from the Faculty of Education, Dr. Magdalena Rudkowski is being being recognized with the award of the Dean of Graduate Studies Convocation Medal. On behalf of SFU, we congratulate Dr. Rudkowski on her outstanding achievements. 

Dr. Magdalena Rudkowski drew on her earliest childhood experiences in the forests of Poland to ground her doctoral research. For her dissertation, The Complexity of Understanding: Young Children’s Experiences in a Forest Program, she merged reflective and participatory methods in order to authentically incorporate the experiences of four-year-old children in an outdoor forest program into her research.

She discovered that these children’s lived experiences were complex and, furthermore, that their experiences in the forest played a significant role in strengthening their developmental wellbeing. 

Dr. Margaret MacDonald, her supervisor, says, "Magdalena's research on young children's experiences in forest pre-school programs comes at a time when such programs have become extremely popular but little or no research has been done to account for the benefits and possible drawbacks to our most vulnerable learners."

Experts in her field agree — Dr. Rudkowski was invited to present at the 2014 Global Summit on Childhood, the biannual conference of the Association for Childhood Education International. Over the course of her doctoral studies, Dr. Rudkowski spoke at a number of conferences, published in academic and non-academic journals, and served on the boards of several committees.

She plans to continue advocating for the inclusion of children in academic research, and to educate early childhood professionals and caregivers about the importance of unstructured forest play.

She says, "I'm truly fortunate to be surrounded by people who deeply care about my research topic, and who supported me throughout this journey. I've gained deep insight into how these children experienced the forest in their everyday experiences. The dialogue highlights that their experiences were quite complex, ranging from overwhelming enjoyment to experiencing challenging emotions. Having such insights allows us, early childhood educators and caregivers, to better recognize the importance and implications of bringing young children outdoors."

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