I am currently a sixth year PhD candidate in the Faculty of Education at UBC. My doctoral research project is a critical participatory action research project developing professional learning communities with in-service teachers to bridge emerging theories with teaching practices that include unstructured outdoor play as a pedagogical approach.

I have over 26 years of experience as a professional educator in public school classrooms, outdoor and garden classrooms. To read more about my teaching practice, read this post. I am currently employed as the Early Learning and K-7 Curriculum Implementation Teacher Consultant in a BC school district. 

As a doctoral student, I am honoured to have my own research funded by SSHRC and to be learning from expert scholars in my field. The following research projects have shaped my learning thus far:


Dissertation Research Investigating Education Outside the Classroom

Primary Investigator: Leyton Schnellert, Associate Professor Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy (EDCP), Eleanor Rix Professor in Rural Teacher Education, Faculty of Education at the University of British Columbia 

Funded by: SSHRC


Zeni M, Han C, Raaflaub E, Brussoni M, BC Children’s Hospital Digital Lab. Outdoor play and learning online tool for teachers. Vancouver, BC; 2023. Available from:

Zeni, M., Schnellert, L., & Brussoni, M. (2023). “We do it anyway”: Professional identities of teachers who enact risky play as a framework for education outdoors.Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education,

Knowledge Dissemination: Teacher Tool


ViRMA: Virtual Risk Management – Exploring effects of childhood risk experiences through innovative methods

Primary Investigator Norway: Dr. Ellen Sandseter, Queen Maud University College of Early Childhood Education

Primary Investigator Canada: Dr. Mariana Brussoni, UBC Faculty of Medicine, Pediatrics, School of Population and Public Health (SPPH) Director, Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP)

Funded by: Norwegian Research Council


Bring Education Outdoors (BE OUT): developing a digital tool to support elementary school teachers who locate their curriculum outdoors

Primary Investigator: Mariana Brussoni, Director Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP) I Faculty of Medicine | Pediatrics | School of Population & Public Health BC Injury Research & Prevention Unit, The University of British Columbia | BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute

Learn more: Bring Education Outdoors on the Play Outside Lab website


Go Outside and Play! Investigating outdoor play and children’s positive development in schools and communities

Primary Investigator: Eva Oberle, UBC Faculty of Medicine, School of Population and Public Health (SPPH) Human Early Learning partnership (HELP)

Funded by: SSHRC


Molyneux, T., Oberle, E., Zeni, M. (2022). Choose Your Own Adventure: Promoting Social and Emotional Development through Outdoor Learning. Early Childhood Education Journal.

Oberle, E., Zeni, M., & Munday, F., & Brussoni, M. (2021). Support factors and barriers to outdoor learning in elementary schools: A systemic perspective. American Journal of Health Education.

Knowledge Dissemination:

Canadian Outdoor Learning Resource Hub: A summary of the research 

Paper Presentations

Oberle, E., Zeni, M., & Mundy, F. (April, 2021). Support factors and barriers for outdoor learning in elementary schools: A systemic perspective. Poster presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association. Virtual conference meeting.

Graduate Research Assistant

Go Play Outside! Early Learning and Child Care (GPO-ELCC)

Primary Investigator: Mariana Brussoni, Director Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP) I Faculty of Medicine | Pediatrics | School of Population & Public Health BC Injury Research & Prevention Unit, The University of British Columbia | BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute

Funded by: Employment and Social Development Partnerships Program Canada

Learn more: Brussoni Lab Early Childhood Outside Project


Cheng, T., Brussoni, M., Han, C., Munday, F., Zeni, M. (2022). Perceived Challenges of Early Childhood Educators in Promoting Unstructured Outdoor Play: An Ecological Systems Perspective. Early Years: an international research journal.

Brussoni, M., Han, C., Jacob, J., Munday, F., Zeni, M., Walters M., Cheng. T., Schneeberg, A., Fox, E., Oberle, E. (2021). A Web-Based Risk Reframing Intervention to Influence Early Childhood Educators’ Attitudes and Supportive Behaviors Toward Outdoor Play: Randomized Controlled Trial. JMIR Research Protocols. doi:10.2196/31041

Paper Presentations

Munday, F., Zeni, M., Han, C., Cheng, T., & Brussoni, M (2019). A digital risk-reframing tool to shift early childhood educators’ perceptions of outdoor play: Intervention mapping approach. A poster presented at the Big Difference BC conference. (PDF).

Cheng, T., Munday, F., Zeni, M., Han, C., & Brussoni, M (2019). Challenges early childhood educators face in promoting outdoor play – A qualitative study. A poster presented at the UBC Life Science Research Night. (PDF)

Chan, T., Zeni, M. (2021, March 19). Perceived challenges of early childhood educators in promoting unstructured outdoor play: ‘They limit it because they want always to be safe.’ [Paper presentation]. University of British Columbia, Education Graduate Students Conference: Transformations & Translations – Curriculum and Change, Vancouver, BC, Canada. 

Knowledge Dissemination: Final Tool

Check out the risk re-framing tool for educators here! Outside

Research Collaborator

Capturing pandemic experiences in outdoor learning and applying lessons learned to support equitable access

Primary Investigator: Tanya Halsall, Adjunct Research Professor, Department of Neuroscience, Carleton University

Funded by: SSHRC Insight Grant


Halsall, T., Mahmoud, K., Iyer, S.N., Orpana, H., Zeni, M., & Matheson, K. (2023) Implications of time and space factors related with youth substance use prevention: a conceptual review and case study of the Icelandic Prevention Model being implemented in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well being, 18:1, DOI: 10.1080/17482631.2022.2149097

Research Collaborator

Intergenerational Landed Learning Project with The Classroom Gardener

Primary Investigators: Dr. Sandra Scott and Dr. Doug Adler, University of British Columbia Faculty of Education, EDCP

Funded by: NSERC

Knowledge Dissemination: 

The Garden Classroom Series. Registration for teachers available in collaboration with Van Dusen Gardens

School Garden Kits for Elementary School Teachers. Available in partnership from The Outdoor Learning Store.

Support for Classroom Gardeners. Available through partnership with The Classroom Gardener. 

Research Fellow

Van Dusen Gardens Research Fellow

Primary Investigator: Dr. David Zandvliet, UNESCO Chair in Bio-Cultural Diversity and Education; Simon Fraser University, Institute for Environmental Learning.

Outdoor play

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