Nature Preschool Conference


Our sixth annual Nature Preschool Conference is June 9-10!

Nature-based preschools are re-focusing the lens on early childhood education. Join us for the Irvine’s award-winning conference to address the unique benefits and challenges of nature-based curriculum in early childhood programs.

Attendees will participate in engaging workshops under the following strands:
1.    Nature Immersion and Wild Nature Play
2.    Nature-based Learning in Urban Settings
3.    Best Practices and Curricula in Nature Preschools

Network with participants from across the country to share and grow the EECE movement! See where professional development intersects with teacher retreat during an inspiring weekend.

See our 2017 Nature Preschool Conference brochure.


2017 Conference Pricing

Full Conference:  $185
Full Conference with Camping: $210

Friday Only – Happy Hour & Key Note:  $50
Saturday Only – Workshops:   $135

Quick Conference Details

    • 25 minutes outside of Baltimore
    • Prices range from $50 to $210
    • Rustic camping available on-site for a $25 fee.

FRIDAY, JUNE 9, 2017

In the Children’s Words: Understanding the Power of Documentation

Marty Watson
Friday, June 9,  7 – 9 p.m.

There are many inspirations from the progressive Reggio Emilia approach to education, but one powerful tool Marty has utilized as a nature preschool director is documentation. Marty will share some of her personal journey in her own learning and then share a variety of examples of authentic assessment that vividly describes children’s learning through words, pictures and product. Examples will range from documenting a moment of learning to an entire project. Through documentation visibility is given to the potential power of learning through nature.

Marty Watson, Dodge Nature Preschool, St Paul, Minn. In 1993, after Marty received her Master’s degree she had the opportunity to be part of a study group organized by Bank Street College to visit the schools in Reggio Emilia, Italy. Upon starting her work as Director at the Union Congregational Nursery School she began implementing her new knowledge about the work in the schools of Reggio Emilia. One of the most important things she took away from the work in Reggio was the depth of understanding about how children learn, shown through documentation displays, video and conversation.
In 2008 Marty accepted the position of Director at the Dodge Nature Preschool in West Saint Paul. Dodge Nature Preschool opened in 2000 and has become a leader in the field of Nature Preschool Education.



Opening Exercise – Experiential Learning | 9-10:30 a.m.

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.

An Infant & Toddler’s Perspective: Hands-On Approaches to Nature Play | 10:40 -11:50 a.m. or 12:50-2 p.m.

Discover ways to experience both nature and art through the eyes of infants and toddlers. We encourage you to get messy and creatively explore different ways nature can be incorporated into daily art activities and sensory play. Come learn that nature can be an art-friendly place for children of all ages and developmental stages.

Danny Joe’s Tree House: Music and Puppetry for Social-Emotional Development | 10:40-11:50 a.m. or 2:10-3:20 p.m.

Acclaimed musician, educator and emotion coach from the online children’s show Danny Joe’s Tree House is here to share his magic! Join him as he shares ways to help children explore emotions through honest talk, song, movement and puppetry. Learn more at Plan to sing along!

Nature as Art: Creative Experiences with the Natural World | 10:40-11:50 a.m. or 12:50-2 p.m.

During this hands-on session, participants will explore a variety of ways to incorporate the natural world into art experiences for young children. Use natural materials, share resources, create ephemeral art and learn ways to connect the creativity of students to relevant curriculum and standards.

Natural Playthings | 12:50-2 p.m. or 2:10-3:20 p.m.

Handmade games and manipulatives spark creativity and learning in a whole new way! Children discover how to be resourceful and how to re-purpose plentiful natural and recycled materials while refining foundational skills. Come and create playthings for your school during this hands-on workshop.

Nature Immersion and Wild Nature Play - Anywhere! | 2:10-3:20 p.m. or 3:30-4:40 p.m.

It can be a challenge tapping into the best natural spaces your setting has to offer. Discover innovative approaches Little Leaf takes utilizing the grounds of a nursing home for wild space as well as what other spaces preschools around the globe are using for their nature play. This workshop includes outdoor reflection time to help you make the most of your own outdoor space.

Honoring Outdoor Spaces: A Traditional School’s Transformation | 3:30-4:40 p.m.

This interactive session showcases experiences and events that administration, faculty, staff and parents of the First Baptist Church of Clarendon Child Development Center have experienced while transitioning from a traditional playground to an aspiring Certified Nature Explore Outdoor Classroom.

Exploring Literacy Through Nature | 3:30-4:40 p.m.

Promote preschool literacy development through a multi-sensory approach! Go beyond rote memorization by creating activities that encourage young children to attach meaning to their learning & literacy skills – through nature, their
“first teacher.”

There are some fun opportunities for personal enrichment included in the conference fee.

  • Early Riser Yoga (Saturday morning) Start the day with yoga poses inspired by nature. Discover how to infuse mindful approaches in your curriculum too.
  • Bird Song Morning Hike (Saturday morning) Listen to the symphony of birds at Irvine. Feel free to bring your binoculars for a peaceful morning trek.
  • Lunch with the Animals (Saturday afternoon) Educators will informally share live animals and answer questions about how young children learn from them.

Pitch your own tent on our beautiful property for a minimal fee ($25). Rustic accommodations do not include shower facilities, but sunrise over the meadow and morning bird songs are pure bliss. (Port-o-potties are in walking distance; campground is a 10-minute walk from the nature center.) Space is limited. Reserve early!


Previous Conference-Goers Had This To Say:

  • “The networking was great! The workshops were very educational and inspirational.”
  • “Inspired me to keep trying despite setbacks or parental resistance – learn from your mistakes!”
  • “I really appreciated the “curriculum”/skill connections and the AH-HA about allowing for freedom, risk-taking and engagement.”
  • “I enjoyed the whole experience!”
  • “There were many concrete and practical ideas for the classroom. I loved seeing ideas from The Nature Preschool open house.”
  • “Your classrooms were inspiring. The grounds are beautiful and your outdoor classroom was great.”
  • “Superior training and Irvine staff!”
  • “Best preschool conference I’ve been to!”
  • “Excellent job! I was very impressed with the whole conference.”
  • “I loved everything and will be back.”