Nature Preschool Conference
June 6-8, 2014
Check back soon for 2014 presenters and full conference details.
Nature-based preschools are re-focusing the lens on early childhood environmental education. Join us for the second annual conference to address the unique benefits and challenges of nature-based curriculum in early childhood programs.
Preschool educators and administrators will connect to discover and share activities, insight and best practices. Topics include:
- Nature-based curriculum ideas and activities
- Strategies for incorporating nature-based curriculum in urban preschool settings
- The role of natural play spaces and wild nature play
- The role of State standards and how they are interwoven in nature-based curriculum
This conference is approved by MSDE’s Office of Childcare. You may earn up to 12 professional development training hours in Core of Knowledge (5 hours in Child Development; 6 hours in Curriculum; 1 hour in Health, Safety and Nutrition; and 1 hour in Community). Successful completion of a culminating conference assessment is required in order to receive your certificate.
Download the 2013 conference brochure.
Check out presenter Amy Beam leading nature games during the 2013 conference in this YouTube video.
Quotes from our 2013 Particpants
- “Keep having this conference – I used so many ideas from last year! It gets me fired up!”
- “Truly every part was wonderful! Nice schedule that went from hands on, active seminars to sit and listen and back to active again. Meals were a great time to network. Best memory is camping near the fire pit area and watching the field light up with fire flies!”
- “We need MORE Amy Beam. After 17 years as an environmental educator and workshop presenter, I rarely hear new/fresh ideas – but she had new twists and it was great! Refreshing!”
- “I especially enjoyed the hike in the rain!”
- “Everything was fun and informative – even walking in the rain!”
- “Everything was beautiful! It was very educational and the activities were so fun! I really liked trying different food and enjoyed the meals offered.”
- “Awesome hands-on learning and experiences throughout entire conference.”
- “Loved everything. Really great place, great ideas presented, excellent presenters, and food was delicious, too!”
- “Highlights were meeting other nature educators, sharing information, struggles, triumphs, camaraderie, and natural setting.”
- “I appreciate the spiritual connection Kayam Farm included.”
- “Erin’s discussions were awesome! The hands-on activities were also very useful. I loved walking on the property. What an inspiring location and preschool. “
- “I really appreciated the Ark presentation and the improvements seen with the children.”
- “The facility is fantastic!”
- “Faculty and staff of Irvine were superb!”
- “I liked the hike in the mud and all of the sessions were great!”
2013 Conference Information
KEYNOTE ADDRESS | Nature Deficit Disorder presented by Erin Kenny
Richard Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods introduced the concept of nature deficit disorder. Here we explore the roots of this phenomenon including living in a fear-based, indoor culture. The field of eco-psychology purports that most modern mental illnesses result from lack of extended outdoor time. Ms. Kenny will share factors that may contribute to Americans overlooking this important aspect of early childhood development. She will also examine how environmental education curriculum in most schools leads to the growing problem of ecophobia. In addition, studies show that leading environmentalists cite outdoor time and a nature mentor as reasons for their passion. Where will the next environmental activists come from? Read Erin Kenney's bio.
These interactive workshops provide inspiration for nature-based curriculum in your program:
For the Love of Nature: Outdoor Learning at The Nature Preschool
Monica Wiedel-Lubinski and Karen Madigan | Exploration of the grounds and Outdoor Classroom at Irvine Nature Center will engage participants and highlight how The Nature Preschool students connect with nature. Bring your camera and a sketchbook for activities during our hike. Frog-catching encouraged! Read Monica and Karen's bios.
Connecting to Our Roots: Jewish Farm Education for Preschoolers
Morris Panitz and Laura Menyuk, Kayam Farm at The Pearlstone | Teaching Jewish farm-based education shares ties with a practice gaining common ground, the teaching in Native American gardens. Both connect students with a sense of place and deep-rooted cultural identity. Discover how we make meaningful connections with the whole child during this two-part presentation. Read Morris and Laura's bios.
Part 1: Diversity of Seeds We will explore the connection between seeds we find outside, seeds which nature sows, and seeds which humans plant to grow food. Through modeling a children’s activity we will discover seeds from various edible tree fruits, nuts and vegetable fruits hidden in “soil.”
Part 2: Vermicomposting We will define and introduce the functions of compost and worm compost, create a worm bin together and discuss caring for them in a classroom. We will end with the enduring Jewish values not to waste (ba’al tashchit) and to work with intention (kavanah).
Early Morning Yoga
Jen Walker | Take in the serenity of Irvine during this peaceful outdoor yoga class. We will share yoga poses and techniques that students at The Nature Preschool at Irvine learn as well. Read Jen's bio.
The Value of Play
Erin Kenny, Cedarsong Nature School | Many American parents are convinced they need to fast track their preschoolers with letters and numbers. However, research indicates that some early literacy and math programs may actually be detrimental to a child’s later learning. Erin will speak about the latest neuroscience research that supports the superiority of hands-on, experiential play as the best way for young children to learn. Erin will illuminate how, when young children play in nature, they are learning valuable natural science lessons in ecosystems, biology, botany, ethnobotany, etymology, ornithology, zoology, math, physics and engineering. In addition, children learn important lessons in social development, conflict resolution, instilled kindness, compassion, empathy, emotional balance, risk assessment, increased upper and lower body strength, including hand strength, better balancing and flexibility. Read Erin's bio.
Experiential Learning with Amy Beam
Amy Beam; Metro Montessori Schools and Kids Love Nature! | Follow Amy on the trail and go play on the landscape! She will model techniques for outdoor learning like the art of questioning, the 50/50 principle and the importance of a ‘sit spot’. She will also share nature songs and games, and offer practical management of groups during outdoor learning. Her workshop is rooted in the pedagogy of The Coyote Guide to Connecting with Nature by Jon Young. Read Amy's bio.
Lunch with the Animals
Sophie Gerard and Laura Soder | Live animals are an integral component to learning at The Nature Preschool at Irvine. Meet some of our wild friends! Read Sophie and Laura's bios.
Seeds to Silk: Seasonal Cycles of Learning
Pat Whitehead and Charlotte Landgraf, The Waldorf School of Baltimore | Participants will explore nature-based activities designed to engage children at a developmentally appropriate level with an emphasis on seasonal festivals and celebrations. A colorful presentation will be followed by a hands-on session where participants will make a marigold petal dye and create a child’s silk Autumn Festival cape. Read Pat and Charlotte's bios.
Exploring Nature In A City-Based Program
Nancy Newman, Bryan Appel, Sandy Lee and Jasmine Williams; The Ark Preschool | The Ark at Johnston Square is Maryland’s only licensed preschool program designed for three- and four- year-olds whose families are in homeless situations. The Ark had the opportunity to partner with The Nature Preschool at Irvine by visiting once a month during 2012-2013. In this session we will discuss how our students experienced these outdoor trips and what we, the teachers, learned about fostering comfort, curiosity and interest in nature while based in an urban setting. Read Nancy, Bryan, Sandy and Jasmine's bios.
Creativity Runs Wild
The Nature Preschool at Irvine | Tour Irvine's classrooms and check out dozens of art projects, games and activity ideas that reinforce nature-based curriculum.
See the full conference schedule, download the conference brochure or read the bios of all the amazing presenters.
- Full Conference | Includes all workshops, keynote with Erin Kenny, yoga and three meals = $135
- Full Conference w/ Camping Fee | Includes all workshops, keynote with Erin Kenny, yoga, three meals & reserved camping spot = $160
- Friday Only | Includes all Friday workshops, dinner, keynote with Erin Kenny and campfire = $55
- Saturday Only | Includes yoga, two meals and Saturday workshops = $80
- Camp out! For $25, please join us at Irvine for an overnight campout. Bring a tent, or borrow one from us.
- Stay nearby. Irvine has blocked off a group of rooms at the Hilton Garden Inn, about 3 miles from us in Owings Mills. They offer a convienent shuttle service that can bring you to Irvine either day of the conference.