Session Descriptions

We are thrilled to welcome a record number of presenters at this year's conference! The final conference program will be made available in July but you can peruse the list of confirmed sessions below. Please note that the schedule is subject to change.

Interested in a specific topic or presenter? Use the search function of your browser (CTRL + f on Windows, CMD + f on Mac) to search through all of the session descriptions, and keep in mind that we're adding new information every week! You can also jump to specific subsections:



August 1

Workshops, 9-10:30am

How Nature-Based Curriculum Unfolds: Eight Owls, Eight Students, Two Teachers
Anne M. Stires - Juniper Hill School for Place-Based Education & Antioch University
A close look at the evolution of an interdisciplinary, nature-based investigation will illuminate the teacher’s role in listening for children’s questions, structuring experiences, providing tools and encouraging inquiry.

Doing What Scientists Do
Ellen Doris - Antioch University
This workshop will introduce an approach to early childhood science that integrates observation and inquiry, indoor and outdoor exploration, language and literacy. We’ll engage in observation and inquiry ourselves, learn from children’s drawings and discussions, and consider next steps.

Animal ABC's: The Science of Teaching Nature to Children Using Theater
Emilie Hanson - Central Park Zoo
Learn how the Central Park Zoo uses theater to foster love for the natural world with children unable to leave their classrooms. Join us as we discuss the process of creating theatrical program for children ages 2-5. Watch snippets of our shows to inspire you to use theater yourself!

Strategies & Benefits of Farm to Early Education
Jed Norris - Shelburne Farms
Learn how Farm to Early Childhood Education (FTEC) concepts help meet state standards and promote children's learning, social-emotional well-being, healthy eating habits, family engagement and community building.

What's the Hurry? Let's Slow Down to Develop Naturally
Cassandra Louise Ellis - Bloom Early Education
The norm is to speed things up and dumb things down for children. We then lose what makes learning ACTUALLY happen. We will dive into how to slow down in a nature-based learning environment. Join us to learn about tea time, Classroom Agreements, Happenings Mat(c) and more. Why not make time to develop naturally?

Strategies for Supporting Children with Developmental Disabilities During Nature-Based Learning Activities
Sylvia Collazo  Florida Atlantic University
Nature-based learning for all! Learn more about young children with developmental disabilities and discuss barriers to inclusion in nature-based programs. Evaluate your program and find out how research-based strategies can help you build inclusive practices and support children with special needs.

Nature Preschools at Your Zoo & Aquarium
Heidi Faris; Lauren Magliola; Amy Greene; Amanda McMickle; Laura Seger - Association of Zoos and Aquariums
Zoos and aquariums have created innovative ways to connect visitors to nature. Nature Play Begins at your Zoo & Aquarium has awarded funding over the past 4 years. Through the use of community partners and nestled in urban areas, hear from AZA-accredited facilities that connect children & families to nature through a unique opportunity of adding a nature preschool.

"But… Do You Teach Them to Read?": Justifying the Importance of Nature-Based Learning in Early Elementary
Cheryl Ryan - Red Oak Community School
Every nature-based program has its skeptics. Discover some resources and tools you can use to effectively market your program to families and funders alike. Participate in a practice session where we will put our skills to the test.

Transforming Environments
Rebecca Dhondt - Smith Memorial Playground and Playhouse
Do you want to start your own indoor/outdoor program or bring more nature into a classroom you already have? Learn more about what Reggio Emilia is and why the environment is the third teacher. Participants will see examples, share ideas, and learn to create and assess nature-based areas that will enrich teachers, students and parents.

Nature-Based Preschool Professional Practices: An Open-Space Discussion
Christy Merrick - Natural Start Alliance
Bring your questions, thoughts, and ideas about Natural Start's new Nature-Based Preschool Professional Practice Guidebook. After a short introduction, we'll offer a facilitated discussion of the practices, discuss your thoughts and questions, and brainstorm together about how to use the practices to advance nature-based learning in the United States. 


Presentations, 10:45-11:45am

Promoting Inclusion: A Continuum of Supports
Deb Carter & Juli Pool - Boise State University
This session will discuss a continuum of supports to promote inclusive learning opportunities for all young children. Building on the ECEE Guidelines for Excellence, the presenter will support attendees in considering tiered supports and systems to promote participation and inclusion.

Digging for Meaning: Preliteracy Skills in Nature-Based Preschool
Heidi Mann - Forest Friends
Nature-based preschool is an opportunity for young children to acquire a strong foundation of pre-literacy skills that will ensure their future success. Learn how children become the architects of their own stories as they learn to describe events using sensory rich vocabulary and bring classic stories to life through puppets and role-playing in the outdoors.

Risk vs Hazard in Outdoor Education
Rachel Schaller - Elmhurst Academy of Early Learning
An informational session that looks into the benefits of risky outdoor play in healthy early childhood development. Educators will gain insight into best practices to support appropriate risk taking and challenge their own thinking on safety intervention in the outdoors.

Bringing the Outdoors In and the Indoors Out: Montessori and Nature-Based Preschool
Laura Mammarelli; Audrey Eisenhauer - Blue Heron School
At Blue Heron School at Squam Lakes Natural Science Center, we use the Montessori teaching approach in a nature-based preschool setting. We will share our blended approach, our nature curriculum, and some of the activities and materials we use to bring the outdoors in and the indoors out.

Teaching and Learning with Vertical Hydroponic Gardens
Louise Ammentorp; Rachel Chernati - The College of New Jersey
Hydroponic gardens can be a powerful learning tool for p-3 students and preservice teachers. We will share resources on the basics of hydroponics, maintenance, connections to outdoor learning, as well as standards-aligned lessons and activities for the p-3 classroom.

Cross-Sector Collaboration to Foster Nature-Based Learning Opportunities for Kindergarten Children in Hong Kong
Amelia Nam Yuk LEE - Hong Kong Baptist University
Amelia Nam Yuk LEE, Chairperson of the Kindergarten Curriculum Guide and the leader of Hong Kong’s first publicly funded nature-based early learning program, will share her experience in advocacy, planning, design, cross-sector collaboration and teacher preparation in nature-based early learning.

Little Explorers: Facilitating Parent-Child Programs
Liza Lowe - Antioch University & Wild Roots Nature School
We'll explore ways to create a predictable, reassuring rhythm that includes songs and simple activities, which are engaging and fun. Discover how to use the seasons as a guide for the day's focus and invigorate your group with all that Mother Nature has to offer - whatever the weather!

Design Your Outdoor Classroom For All
Ed Melvin - SHP Design
Learn how to design outdoor learning environments while considering the relationships between physical environment and educational and developmental needs of children of all ages and ability levels.

Diversity and Community within Nature Preschools
Julie Camp - Magnolia Nature School
Come learn about Alabama's first nature-based preschool! We have formed partnerships which allow us to be more inclusive across income brackets and enrich our students' education. Discuss how to form partnerships that can benefit both your local community and your school!

Principled: A Conversation with Public School Principals
Eliza Minnucci; Christine Bourne; Cathy Newton; Barrett Williams - Antioch University & ForestKinder, Hartland Elementary School, Ottauquechee School, Sharon Elementary School
Join principals from elementary schools with strong nature-based programming. Discussion will include program origin stories, creative funding solutions, and administrators’ perspectives on the benefits of investing in more outdoor time for young students. Bring your own questions, too!


Presentations, 1:15-2:15pm

Outdoor Play and Children's Storied Constructions
Celia Cruz - The Miquon School
Participants will learn how students in an emergent, inquiry-based nursery program take agency in their storytelling through outdoor play and how first and second graders participate in "Hike and Write" during a poetry study.

Preschool in the Park: Using Urban Spaces to Cultivate Curious, Compassionate Kids
Rachel Franz - Tiny Trees Preschool
Urban parks provide preschool-age children with amazing opportunities for engaging in social and environmental justice. With examples from an all-outdoor urban preschool, we will explore children’s experiences in urban spaces as a platform for anti-bias education in this session.

Design for Best Practice in Outdoor Learning Environments
Adrienne Sedlak - National Wildlife Federation
Do you have ideas for your outdoor spaces at your child care site, but don’t know where to start? In this hands-on session, you will learn best practice in outdoor learning environments and identify easy ways to begin to reimagine outdoor spaces to engage children and encourage physical activity.

Authentic Learning in the Outdoor Classroom
Jennifer Heyer - Cedar Ridge Elementary School
Move past being the expert in your classroom and start facilitating authentic learning with your students in the great outdoors! This session offers all participants standards-based lessons that will lead you through yearlong nature-based learning and exploring.

Using Nature-based Play to Prepare Our Students for a Traditional, Private School Education
Deanna Robeano; Sarah Penney; Mike Weible; Grace Gordon - The Columbus Academy
See how our program at a college preparatory school has evolved from a traditional, academically-focused program to one that is rooted in outdoor play-based learning. We will share our philosophies, methods and assessment strategies to inspire you to get your students outside and to get dirty!

The Importance of Outdoor Play: A Research-Based Perspective
Lauren Illiano - UD Early Learning Center
This interactive session will discuss the current research on Forest Schools. Participants will leave with sound data to take back to their own schools in order to educate peers on the importance of outdoor play and how it supports all aspects of child development.

Co-Constructing Professional Learning Experiences for Nature-Centered Early Learning
Rachel J. Han - University of Washington
Discuss the knowledge and skills that empower educators to support equitable and just nature-centered learning opportunities for all children. Conversation begins in the context of online learning modules for educators but focuses on cross-pollination between participants’ diverse experiences.

Developing Relationships with Families While Connecting Them to Your Mission
Heather Parker Goetzinger; Shannon McLeese - Nature's Way Preschool
Family engagement is essential to developing community. Nature-based schools must also foster a connection between families and the natural world. Learn how to create routines, events, fundraisers, and parent groups designed to create meaningful relationships while encouraging sustainable choices.

Routines, Rituals and Relationships: Starting the Year Off Right
Vicki Sturtevant; Jenna Zamzow- Little Hawks Discovery Preschool
Utilizing rituals, expectations and intentional connections helps teachers create a classroom community and minimize unwanted and challenging behaviors. We will discuss the routines and rituals used in our classroom, on the playscape, and while exploring the beyond.

Never hear “Why are her clothes dirty?” again. Capturing emergent nature based curriculum using a pedagogical documentation tool while deepening partnerships with families
Megan Gessler - The Morton Arboretum; Peter Dixon - Storypark
Looking to build understanding with families, deepen impact for children, and shorten the hours spent on documentation? Come explore how Storypark has impacted the pedagogy, culture, and communication at one nature-based program. Leave with new tips, tools, and takeaways.


Presentations, 3:45-4:45pm

Supporting Nature-Based Learning in an Early Childhood-5th Grade Public School
Anna Dutke - Prior Lake-Savage Area Schools
Learn about outdoor learning guidelines that were created for supporting Nature PreK and K-5th grade teachers, to successfully provide nature-based learning opportunities for their students. In addition, explore curriculum resources and materials from the Jeffers Foundation.

Becoming the Beast: Encouraging Pretend Play to Foster Empathy for Living Things
Amanda Segura - Riverbanks Zoo and Garden
Discover techniques for kids to explore their natural surroundings through pretend play, by immersing themselves into the lives of the plants and animals around us. Learn how to guide children on hikes and focus their attention on a topic through stories, natural items, and exploratory tools.

Growing Inside… Outside: Strategies for Creating Learning & Play Landscapes For Children
Susanne Smith Meyer - Naturally Rooted LLC
Every curricula area can be integrated into an outdoor setting. A planned approach to adding these nature based learning opportunities will ensure success and enrich the mind, body, and spirit of children through hands-on exploration in an outdoor environment.

Letting Play Lead the Way: Navigating and Illuminating the Intricacies of Play in the Forest
Clare Loughran; Abby Bradford; Ron Grady - NOLA Nature School
In this workshop we will discuss the importance of play in early childhood and the ways in which we support different types of play in a forest school setting. This presentation also includes ways to illuminate the learning in play for children, practitioners, families, and the broader community.

Partnering with Family Childcare Educators: Instilling a Lifelong Love of Nature in Very Young Children in Areas with Limited Access to Green Space
Monica Edgerton; Angela Cusicanqui Engborg - All Our Kin
Family Child Care providers play a unique role in creating early access to nature for children 0-5 in cities. Participants will discuss barriers to getting kids outside and will learn how FCC educators have overcome barriers to create high quality outdoor experiences for children in these settings.

Keep The Sense of Wonder: Mud Puddles, Nature Walks, Fairy Houses Oh My
Johanna Booth-Miner - Live & Learn Early Learning Center & Rising Hawk Afterschool
Come explore wonder with us. Participants will have hands-on experiences with nature . We will look at science as discovery and use all five senses--sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. Participants will explore how to guide children to integrate these experiences into cognitive concepts.

Glorious Mud! – Using Nature to Reach Pre-Service Teachers Who Have Limited Outdoor Experiences Themselves
Katie Pollock; Debbie Torbert - UD Lab School
Time spent inside during childhood has created, in the words of Richard Louv, a "nature deficit" for the undergraduates we work with at University of Delaware. Opening the eyes of these undergrads to the wonder of the world as they interact with children has created a new focus for our academic programs.

Assessment Isn't a Dirty Word (But it Can be a Muddy One)!
Laura Seger, Kelsey Navin - St. Louis Zoo
It’s easy to develop a negative impression of assessment but it can provide valuable info to educators and families. Just as we encourage children to be naturalists, observing and documenting the details of the natural world, we too can use these skills to learn more about our students as they grow.


August 2

Workshops, 9-10:30am

Creating Zen for Our Most Energetic Children
Johanna Perlin - Second Nature Design
A natural outdoor learning environment offers opportunities to support children's individual developmental needs. Through hands on activities and small group sharing, learn strategies to help determine the needs of children with challenging behaviors and activities that offer positive outlets.

The Head and the Hands: Translating Nature-play Research into Practice
Eliza Minnucci - Antioch University & ForestKinder
Dive into PEER Associate's literature review of nature play and learning research. Then become young students on a Forest Day, experiencing the outcomes described by the literature firsthand. Leave this workshop with both the research and the routines to support your work with young children.

Wild about Animals: Exploring Ways to Design Curriculum to Incorporate Live Animals
Jill Canelli; Rina Zampieron - Mass Audubon, Drumlin Farm
Children are naturally curious in some way about animals they encounter. Our focus is on how to incorporate live animals into everyday curriculum. We will also experience activities that deepen learning and connection with and about animals all while observing and interacting with them (real ones!).

Landscapes for Autism: Sensory-Supportive Play & Learning Environments and How to Build Them Yourself
Jena Jauchius - SPVV Landscape Architects
Autism is on the rise. Natural early learning programs are uniquely positioned to respond to this childhood health trend through sensory-supportive play and learning environments. This session goes in-depth on autism’s sensory experiences and how you can build your own beneficial play and learning features.

Playful Inquiry: A Playful Approach to Scentific Inquiry and Exploration
Linda Kinney; Kathy Osborne - North Carolina Zoo
Playful approaches to learning allow children to play with ideas, experiment, and initiate investigations. Using methods used in the playwork profession, participants will look at ways they can playfully support children’s opportunities to explore the questions they care about outdoors.

Remove the Bubble Wrap: Building Resilience through Risk Taking
Johanna Booth-Miner; Nicole Mason - Live & Learn Early Learning Center & Rising Hawk Afterschool
We need to stop bubble wrapping our children! Risk taking builds resilience and competence for life skills. Risk allows children to embrace trial and error as a learning process. Kids learn to problem solve and competence moving their body through space. Participants will explore hazards vs. risk.

Learning Through Story: Outdoor Skills and Nature Connection through Role-Playing Adventure
Jess Liotta - Trackers Earth
Fantasy play is a vital part of how all children learn. In this workshop, participants will explore how live action role-playing games and guided narratives can enhance outdoor educational goals, including nature connection, bushcraft skills, and more.

Asking Questions and Telling Stories: Instructional Techniques for Natural History with Children (Outdoor Session)
Sarah Foglesong & Ellen Bashor- Center for Nature & Place based ECE at Prescott College; Bob Ellis - Natural History Institute

Natural history is foundational for Western understandings of all natural sciences. Most simply, this practice asks us to fall in love with nature, observe, and stay curious. Learn to use deep questioning and storytelling as instructional techniques to help all children engage with natural history.

The Languages of Tools (Outdoor Session)
Britney Stark; Melissa Tobias; April Griebok - Dodge Nature Preschool
Learn about using carpentry tools in an early childhood program. Hear first-hand accounts of childrens' progression using tools, stories of collaborative projects, & examples of tools created from found objects. Discuss necessary risk assessment & logistics of having tools in your curriculum.

Creativity In The Artdoors: How To Make Art In Nature With Natural Materials (Outdoor Session)
Sarah P. Wilson - Antioch University New England
Making beautiful creations outdoors with natural materials is fun! Learn to see nature and all its shapes, colors, properties, and patterns in a new way, while incorporating early childhood curriculum at the same time. This hands-on workshop is for the creative...and the creative at heart alike!


Presentations, 10:45-11:45am

You’re Not in This Alone! Enhancing the Curriculum through Collaborative Community Connections
Peter Dargatz - Woodside Elementary - Hamilton School District
Curricular requirements driving you crazy? Feeling your curriculum doesn’t do what’s best for kids? Connect your curriculum to nature, but don’t think you have to do it alone. Come learn how a public school uses nature and community resources to take their curriculum to the next level.

The Joy of Learning with the Landscape
Mary Zentara - North Branch Nature Center
How can we engage with the landscape in a ways that create authentic learning experiences for ourselves and students? Explore this question by practicing mindfulness and daily outdoor learning routines. This workshop will focus on direct experience in nature followed by a debrief and discussion.

Unlearning Together: Integrating Conscious Discipline in our Forest School Family
Katja von Elbe; Patricia Leon - Miami Nature Playschool
As educators, we must determine the values and skills we model and teach daily to empower children to regulate themselves, handle difficult feelings, and communicate with others. Learn about our journey as an urban forest school and take home helpful strategies and resources for your program.

The Science of Inquiry in Early Childhood
Brooke Larm - Michigan State University Extension
How can natural phenomena drive teaching and learning? Investigate how to spark and guide children's thinking using an inquiry-based approach. Drawing from the NGSS position statement on ECE, we will share stories and practical ideas of how to foster meaningful learning in the outdoors.

Bit by Bit: How One Preschool Increased Its Natureness
Sunny Crandell - Santa Barbara City College, The Oaks Parent-Child Workshop
Sunny Crandell, Director & Parent Education Instructor, will share the story of how, within the limits of location, budget, and governance constraints, an urban cooperative preschool was able to increase its natureness and enhance children’s learning with nature “inside, outside, and beyond.”

Centering Equity, Ecocentrism and Social Justice in Nature-Based Education
Kelly McLane; Takako Kono; Yinan Lu - Queens Botanical Garden
We invite you to embark on a journey of planning for the future of nature-based programs through lenses of equity, justice, and ecocentrism. Together, we explore decentralized power structures, interconnectedness of nature and justice, nature programs in urban settings and multicultural communities.

Integrative Nature Immersion Programs for Children with ASD
Nina Bricko; Stephanie Fitch - Mighty Seeds Forest School
In this session we will discuss the therapeutic benefits of nature immersion programs for children with ASD, how we can support those children, and ways to establish partnerships in order to integrate children in your own program.

Moments in Nature with Infants and Toddlers (Outdoor Session)
Katrine Horion - Second Nature
Going outdoors with infants and toddlers can pose a unique challenge. Our workshop will offer strategies for play in inclement weather, creating activities, partnering with parents, meeting regulations, and ways we can help babies and toddlers explore at their own pace.

Self Care and Mindfulness for Educators (Outdoor Session)
Mali Johnson - Vermont Wilderness School
Learn yoga-based self-care practices through gentle stretching, movement, and breathing techniques to become a better and stronger you. Take on new ways to share mindfulness with your students through playfulness and help your students connect to themselves and the natural world in a deeper way.

The Benefits of Taking Risks: From Trees and Ticks to Knives and Poison Ivy (Outdoor Session)
Anne M. Stires - Juniper Hill School for Place-Based Education & Antioch University
Children enjoy learning that is challenging and adventurous, where they can reach beyond their abilities and test themselves. Teaching and learning outdoors provides these sorts of experiences and requires a level of teacher support and management beyond what we are used to in an indoor classroom.


Presentations, 1:15-2:15pm

Exploring the Duo of Spiritual Development and Nature: Providers of Wholeness, Wellness, and Learning for all Children
Deb Schein - Champlain College and Growing Wonder
This workshop is for educators inspiring to bring wholeness, wellness, and learning to all children. Using a definition of spiritual development that incorporates nature, relationships, wonderment, joy, mindfulness, etc, educators will find new ways to understand children’s nature play experiences.

An Urban Public School Heads into the Woods
Bill Fulbrecht - The Brooklyn New School
A public school in Brooklyn might seem an unlikely place to find children enjoying weekly Forest Days, but it can happen. A teacher from the Brooklyn New School, P.S. 146, shares how one NYC public school joined the growing ranks of what are mostly private Forest School programs. Join us for a presentation and open discussion as we chart a path forward together.

What Day Is It? Becoming Sunwatchers as an Alternative to Traditional Calendar Time
Lisa Hixon -
Do your learners know what day it is? Do they care? Would you like to re-think the way you "teach" the calendar? We will examine how sunwatching can bring us closer to the natural world and discover ways to spark awareness of the sun, seasons, and cosmic position of the earth. 

Engaging Children with Disabilities in Nature: Collaborating with Families and Accessing Community Supports
Sylvia Collazo & Dr. Yash Bhagwanji- Florida Atlantic University
Let’s make nature fun for everyone! Join our discussion on the challenges of engaging children with disabilities in nature-based programs and learn tips on how to collaborate with families and access community resources to support the inclusion of children of all abilities in your programs.

Learning from Each Other: A Facilitated Discussion on the Challenges of Starting a School
Rachel Larimore; David Catlin - Samara Early Learning
This session will start with a brief overview of the process and common challenges of starting a school. We will then have a discussion on the biggest questions and needs of attendees. Come learn from two business planning consultants as well as those in similar situations.

Big Picture Design: Nature Playscapes on a Budget
Nikki Julien - NaturePlayLearning
Limited budgets don’t have to limit nature playscape dreams. This session will introduce the powerhouses of play—design elements that afford the most bang for the buck. Participants will begin an idea bank of nature play elements and experiment with design for risky play to rich, imaginative play.

Risky Play in a Washington State Forest Preschool: Characteristics and Social Contexts
Rachel J. Han - University of Washington
Learn how children engage in risky play in a Washington forest school, including the types of play activities and the associated nature features and social contexts. Join us to discuss how to communicate effectively about the importance of risky play with stakeholders in different social and cultural contexts, given these recent research findings.

Weaving Interactive Stories (Outdoor Session)
Harriet Hart - North Branch Nature Center
The golden stick, secret winter worlds, and onion skunks… Come and learn how to captivate your students, weave a narrative that integrates nature facts, and experiment with props. We’ll dissect, discuss, and practice each of the elements that go into creating interactive oral stories.

Animal Diversity and Tracking (Outdoor Session)
Melissa Jackson; Elizabeth Philpott - The Orchard School
This session will highlight how animal tracks are useful in learning about the diversity of wildlife in varied habitats. Activities are based on "The Nature of Teaching" curriculum from Purdue University. Participants will discover how to create a scent station and document student learning.

Be Safe, Be Kind, Be Gentle: Nurturing Young Children's Sense of Wonder and Sense of Self (Outdoor Session)
Emily Pals; Hilary Redman- Four Winds Nature Institute
As children, we learn about ourselves and the world around us through play, observation, and conversation. Here we'll explore the adult role in nature play and introduce language and strategies to create peaceful learning communities and nurture children’s curiosity, compassion, and confidence.


Presentations, 2:30-3:30pm

Seeds of Inspiration: A Curriculum-Based, Outdoor Classroom Design Tool
Victoria Hackett -
The Seeds of Inspiration card deck is a curriculum design tool for outdoor learning that reconnects children to nature. This session showcases how a simple deck of cards can generate nature-based icebreakers, problem solving activities, creative inspiration and outdoor curriculum ideas.

Shining a Light on Outdoor Learning with Documentation
Karen First; Karen Chemel - Mass Audubon, Ipswich Nature Center
Documentation of outdoor learning helps us reflect upon ordinary and profound moments. We'll share tricks and tools for documenting outdoors, think together about documentation versus display, and learn how to formulate guiding questions that provide a road map for short and long term projects.

Baby Roots: Nature Programs for the First 1000 Days
Leah Deragon - Birth Roots + Baby Roots
Whether an existing outdoor program is expanding to include 0-3, or a 0-3 ECE program is evolving to become more nature-based, this session will address the unique challenges of outdoor programs for a population that is still in diapers, preverbal or even pre-mobile, including frameworks for scaffolding adult caregivers during toddler and baby-led nature play.

First Teacher in the Woods
Rod Diercks - Doane University
This session will describe how our university preservice teachers in a science methods class plan and facilitate Forest Fridays for preschool and kindergarten classes from the local schools. Learn how they apply nature pedagogy skills and concepts as they develop as teachers.

Summer Camps: The Perfect Setting for Nature Based School Programs
Rachel Parker - Ferncliff Nature Preschool
This session will walk you through the why and how of developing a nature preschool or forest kindergarten at a summer camp site. Educators and administrators will leave with a plan in place to help grow the nature-based education movement by thinking of out of the box ways to start up.

Take It Outside! Introducing Nature To Early Learners
Kathleen Neville - NH Project Learning Tree
Taking children outside to learn can be easy and fun. In this session, experience hands-on activities that introduce science concepts to young children and learn tips to take children outside. Participants receive an Environmental Experiences for Early Childhood activity guide and CD.

Creative Collaborations: Exploring Partnerships in Outdoor Classrooms
Nicole Pelletier; Christine Jee - SHED Children's Campus
Learn about a partnership between pre-kindergarten students and their local art museum and reimagine what nature-based classrooms can look like. Participants will create maps of their own schools and identify potential partnerships using what is available in their communities.

Revitalizing Traditional Games to Strengthen Understandings of Nature (Outdoor Session)
Edith Pucci Couchman -
This workshop offers a vibrant assortment of racing, singing-circle, progress-towards-a-goal, and collecting-and-tag games that can be used to provide sociable, inclusive, and aesthetically pleasing interludes to complement nature learning in an outdoor discovery setting or schoolyard.

Rhythms, Routines, and Righteous Transitions (Outdoor Session)
Liza Lowe; Mali Johnson - Antioch University & Wild Roots Nature School
We will offer strategies and techniques to create fluidity within your school day. Learn songs, activities, and models you can follow in any season to establish solid routines and enjoyable rhythms that will help get you and your students through each day with effective repetition and ease.

Bringing Literacy to Life in the Natural World (Outdoor Session)
Jenna Zamzow; Vicki Sturtevant - Little Hawks Discovery Preschool
Let’s go outside for literacy! Nature provides context to what we read, building vocabulary and oral language through direct experiences. Let’s explore how to make books come alive in the eyes of a child, and why increasing literacy efforts outside will help all children grow as future readers.


Poster Presentations

August 1, 2:30-3:30pm

Horticultural Therapy for Inclusive Nature Education
Kay Knight - Chicago Botanic Garden
Inclusive educators looking for a bridge between typical and nature-based pedagogies should look to horticultural therapy (HT) to support students' IEP progress. Attendees will learn about HT, strategies for the classroom, and gain research to justify nature-based experiences for diverse learners.

Animal Mini-Ventures!
Emilie Hanson - Wildlife Conservation Society
At the Central Park Zoo, we have created theatrical performances specially designed to be successful within Early Childhood classrooms. We will discuss best practices in educational theater, and how we adapted and wrote our theatrical programming for children ages 2-6.

Implementing a Nature-Based Learning Program with Traditional Early Childhood Programs; Lessons Learned in the First Year
Katie Krause - University of Nebraska-Lincoln
By working with educators, families and the communities to promote nature-based learning, we are striving to "Create communities where all children have opportunities to learn and play, in and with, nature." We share program details, lessons learned, next steps, and hope to learn from you as well!

Development of the NAture-Based Education Rating Scale (NABERS) for K-3 Education
Rachel Larimore - Michigan State University
This poster focuses on development of the NAture-Based Education Rating Scale (NABERS) for K-3 education, which is designed to describe how “nature-y” a program is. Attendees will learn about the tool development, review a draft of the tool, and be able to provide input.

Nature for All: Leveraging Public Spaces at Dondero Elementary
Alice Carey - Dondero Elementary School PTA, Seacoast Wander Club
Learn how the use of public lands at Dondero Elementary School in Portsmouth has transformed the school's physical and academic environment. Made possible by public/private partnerships, the Forest Classroom and the planned Nature Playground will create an integrated nature-immersion campus.

Inspiring Preschool Teachers in Connecting Children with Nature: Findings from an In-Service Education Initiative
Dr. Yash Bhagwanji & Sylvia Collazo - Florida Atlantic University
Come learn about an innovative in-service curriculum for preschool teachers! Results from pre/post surveys showed increased teacher awareness and understanding of child-nature connection strategies. Tips for improving, planning, and delivering future professional development will be discussed.

How Natural Playscapes Support the Holistic Development of Young Children
Kristen Tarr; Rhonda Kaiser; Patti Bailie - Educare Central Maine
The naturalized outdoor learning environment stimulates the diversity of children’s play experience and will contribute to their healthy development. We will share how our space serves as the third teacher in supporting the holistic development of our young children.

Moms, Pops, & Tots: A Program for Parents and their Infants and Toddlers
Molly Larmie - BLM Campbell Creek Science Center
The BLM Campbell Creek Science Center in Anchorage, Alaska, launched a program for infants and toddlers and their caregivers called “Moms, Pops, & Tots.” Come learn more about this innovative program that gets parents and young children outside exploring together.

Fledglings Nature-Based Preschool
Jayne Hastings - Prescott Farm Environmental Education Center
Prescott Farm offers a licensed Nature-based Preschool Program which gives 3-5 year olds the opportunity to make valuable learning connections during every season and in all types of weather! Learn how the open fields, three miles of wooded hiking trails, ponds, stonewalls, and natural playscape become an outside classroom for learning.

Young Children's Contributions to Sustainability: The Influence of Nature Preschools on Curiosity, Resilience, Executive Function Skills, and Creative Thinking
Jenna Zamzow - University of MN Duluth
Learn about a set of studies investigating the influence of nature preschools on children's creative thinking, curiosity, resilience and executive function skills. This poster also also includes why these outcomes are developmentally important and how they contribute to a more sustainable future.

Animals in Early Childhood EE
Patty Born - Hamline University School of Education
Overview of a survey that explored the role of animals in NbECE settings, including classroom pets, exhibit animals, and wildlife. Teachers' attitudes, barriers, and strategies are identified, along with questions that invite further exploration.


Closing Plenary

August 2, 3:45-5:15pm

Applying a Whole School Approach to Broaden Participation in Nature Play and Learning
Facilitator: Kris Scopinich - Mass Audubon
While the number of nature preschools continues to grow, there remains a gap of awareness and understanding among “traditional” early childhood education professionals about our field, its many benefits to children and communities, and the adoption of nature play and learning as a vital component of early childhood development in any setting.
What is the role of nature preschools and forest kindergartens in broadening participation in nature play and learning for all children while respecting the many approaches and philosophies of early childhood education? What do we need to consider when supporting the integration of early childhood environmental education into more “traditional” early childhood education programs? And, how can we work in partnership with early educators to listen for and identify meaningful ways to integrate nature play and learning in a sustainable way?
This panel of teachers, administrators, and researchers will explore these generative questions and discuss how a whole school approach can offer a constructive framework for thinking about how we can increase access to nature play and learning and contribute to the larger field of early childhood education.