Meet the Team


The professional practices described in the Guidebook are intended to represent a broad consensus among nature-based early education professionals in the United States about what signifies high-quality practice in the field. A draft of the practices was developed by the writing team, whose collective experience in nature-based early education totals more than 200 years of practice; spans across the United States; includes perspectives from a variety of program types including nature preschools, forest schools, and public schools; and includes expertise in a variety of sectors of the field, including teaching, administration, teacher preparation, research, special education, and more. The initial draft was developed with input collected from nature-based educators and administrators at professional gatherings. 

The draft practices were reviewed by a panel of expert reviewers, who expanded the expertise and perspectives used to develop the draft practices. And, finally, the practices were shared with education professionals in a variety of settings in order to collect additional feedback and perspectives from an even wider array of professionals in the field. The feedback provided from these reviews and discussions was used to refine the practices to reflect the widest possible consensus about the practices necessary to run a high-quality nature-based preschool program in the United States today. We know that these practices will evolve over time as they are reviewed and refined in practice, and as conditions change. This drive to continuously reflect on practices in order to improve outcomes for children, families, teachers, and staff is what will keep the nature-based preschool movement growing and thriving. 


Writing Team

Patti Bailie, University of Maine Farmington

Amy Butler, North Branch Nature Center

Deb Carter, Boise State University 

Peter Dargatz, Woodside Elementary School 

Kit Harrington, Fiddleheads Forest School 

Rachel Larimore, Michigan State University 

Marcie Oltman, Tamarack Nature Center

Anne Stires, Juniper Hill School

Monica Wiedel-Lubinski, Eastern Region Association of Forest & Nature Schools

Sheila Williams Ridge, University of Minnesota


Executive Editor

Christy Merrick, North American Association for Environmental Education


Expert Reviewers

Yashwant Bhagwanji, Florida Atlantic University

Patty Born Selly, Hamline University

Sylvia Collazo, Florida Atlantic University

Nilda Cosco, North Carolina State University

Anna Dutke, Prior Lake-Savage Area Schools

Sarah Foglesong, The Center for Nature- and Place-based Early Childhood Education

Megan Gessler, The Morton Arboretum

Lia Grippo, Wild Roots Forest School, Academy of Forest Kindergarten Teachers

Sarah Heller, Fiddleheads Forest School

Erin Kenny, Cedarsong Nature School

Catherine Koons Hubbard, Schlitz Audubon Nature Preschool

Julie Powers, University of Hawaii Maui College

Eileen Prendergast, Chicago Botanic Garden

Adana Protonentis, Seattle Children’s PlayGarden

David Sobel, Antioch University New England

Bora Simmons, National Project for Excellence in Environmental Education

Ruth Wilson, Children and Nature Network

Aliza Yair, Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Families



Judy Braus, Executive Director, NAAEE

Emilian Geczi, Director, Natural Start Alliance (NAAEE)

Betty Olivolo, Assistant Director, Natural Start Alliance (NAAEE)

Emily Van Laan, Conference and Communications Coordinator, Natural Start Alliance (NAAEE)