As we navigate the new and ever-changing world of social isolation, programs are closing their doors and parents are stepping into the role of teacher. How do we lend support and stay connected to each other, children and families, and nature during this time of uncertainty?
One of our biggest strengths as an Alliance is the diversity and depth of knowledge of the educators and professionals that comprise our network, so we asked our members, “What are you doing to connect with children and families and encourage nature-based learning at home?”
Below you’ll find a cross-section of the many amazing ways nature-based educators have quickly pivoted. No organization has all of the answers right now, but we look forward to learning together as we go. The list below is a snapshot of where we are today. Our practices will surely evolve with time.
We will continue to share updates, resources, and encouragement on our social media pages and hope you’ll follow us to stay up-to-date!
Videos for Nature-Based Activities at Home
Nature-based educators have begun recording their favorite trail songs and outdoor lessons, and sharing daily plant and animal facts. Here are a few you can check out:
Amanda Caloia, EverWild LA (California)
Curious Coyote offers nature-based activities, projects, and challenges. EverWild mentors create the videos centered around Jon Young’s Coyote’s Guide to Mentoring in Nature, project-based learning, and place-based learning.
Emily Woodmansee; Live & Learn Early Learning Center, Seacoast Science Center (New Hampshire)
Emily’s videos range from nature challenges to silly or simple songs you can sing on the trail. Most of the resources focus on New Hampshire, but can be adapted for your area. Additional resources can be found here.
Meredith Florkey; Learning Tree Farm, Ohio Naturally (Ohio)
Enjoy a daily video, plant and animal facts, seasonal songs, and a book of the day as a way to keep kids engaged outdoors.
Virtual Meetings & Morning Circle Time
We’ve been inspired by the ways nature-based educators continue to support children and families. Here are some of the ways our members have approached virtual programming:
Lee Hamzy, Little Schoolhouse in the Woods (Ohio)
Educators go live on the Little Schoolhouse in the Woods Facebook page every morning at 9:30 AM ET to share a morning blessing. “We have had a lot of feedback from our parent body that the children are really enjoying this and are participating at home. I think any kind of normalcy that we can bring to our students is a gift.”
Sally-Ann Anderson, SOL Forest School (New Mexico)
Sol Forest School “Treeschoolers” have stayed connected with weekly 45-minute online sessions and have received wonderful feedback from families. They hope online sessions will provide a sense of connectivity, care, belonging, and dependability right now.
Nature Preschool “Hangouts”
Anna Dutke, Prior Lake Savage Schools (Minnesota)
Educators in the Prior Lake Savage Area Schools have stayed connected to students and their families through Seesaw by sharing videos of reading stories, doing nature journaling, etc., and students have responded with their own pictures and videos. They even scheduled a Google Hangout with the preschool class!
Professional Development and Resources for Educators
Regional associations are transitioning chapter meetings, workshops, and other professional development events to a virtual platform. Here are some of the upcoming opportunities:
Eastern Region Association of Forest and Nature Schools (ERAFANS)
ERAFANS is offering webinars on a variety of online topics. Ranging from mindfulness activities like yoga and gratitude practices to facilitated discussions for preschool administrators, there is something for everyone. Webinars are recorded and can be accessed on the ERAFANS website.
Inside-Outside Nature-Based Educators of New England
Inside-Outside is moving all of its upcoming chapter meetings online. These meetings will focus on the goings-on in the New England area, but all are welcome to join. They’ll be adding weekly meetings to the schedule that cover topics from slow birding to nature-based learning in elementary school. More resources are available in their spring newsletter.
Family Nature Clubs at Home
Many of the family nature club activities translate beautifully to your own backyard--or even your living room! Here are a few examples of how it’s being done:
Free Forest School suspended all gatherings and is focusing on building Everyday Outdoors, a virtual community of support for parents around routine nature play. Subscribers receive a weekly email with tips and ideas.
Tinkergarten is providing a weekly guide for parents with DIY activities that are simple, fun, and designed for learning at any age with their new Tinkergarten at Home initiative. Tinkergarten’s founder, Meghan Fitzgerald, has also written a few blog posts about how to adjust to learning from home.
Some organizations are offering events that help people take advantage of backyards and nearby nature. Here are a few examples of online events that aim to help people stay connected with nature while social distancing:
Harris Center for Conservation Education (New Hampshire)
As long as you have a smartphone and an iNaturalist account, you can participate in this bioblitz from home. On April 5, at your own pace, record all of the species of plants, animals, fungi, and other organisms you find in your yard or neighborhood.
Cincinnati Zoo & Aquarium (Ohio)
Each day at 3pm ET on Facebook, the zoo will highlight one amazing animal and include an activity you can do from home. All videos will be posted on the zoo’s website and YouTube channel shortly after the Facebook Live ends. Additional resources can be found here.
As long lists of resources for navigating the pandemic become more prevalent, we’re zeroing in on the lists that have a specific focus. like these:
Natural Start Alliance
We selected a few stories from our archives that felt particularly relevant today. We hope you enjoy reading them with a fresh perspective!
Children & Nature Network
Children & Nature Network created a new website where they will be posting resources, tips, tools, blogs, webinars, stories, and insights from the field.
Childhood by Nature
If you have a backyard or green space nearby your home, you can try these activities that are specially designed for small spaces.