Nature Preschool Conference

4TH ANNUAL: JUNE 5-7, 2015

The Nature Preschool Conference has sold out. Please call 443-738-9220 to see if a spot has opened up on the wait list.

Nature-based preschools are re-focusing the lens on early childhood education. Join us for the fourth annual 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.

Learn more in our Nature Preschool Conference brochure.

NOTE: Friday’s original keynote, Wendolyn Bird, had to emergency cancel her keynote and Saturday workshop. The amazing founders of Brooklyn Forest School, Joylynn Holder and Charles Foster will present instead.

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2015 Conference Pricing

Full Conference Attendees:   $225
Friday Only – Happy Hour & Key Note:  $50
Saturday Only – Workshops:   $135
Sunday Only – Workshops:  $90

Quick Conference Details

    • 25 minutes outside of Baltimore
    • Prices range from $50 – $250
    • Rustic camping available on-site. Hotels nearby.
    • Professional development credits available.

FRIDAY, JUNE 5, 2015

KEYNOTE ADDRESS
The Ideal School

Joylynn Holder and Charles Foster: Brooklyn Forest School, New York, NY
Friday, June 5,  7 – 9 p.m.

We see forest school as the ideal introduction to school for young
children: an environment where they have the freedom to play
using their unique imaginations, where they are gently guided through transitions by teachers they can trust, and where they’re surrounded by a community of families that acknowledge and respect their individual development. We’ll share some of the tools we use to accomplish all of this in the 90 minutes we have each week in our forest school classes and small ways you can transform your class into the ideal school for an hour, a day or a week.

KEYNOTE SPEAKER BIOGRAPHY
Joylynn Holder and Charles Foster started Brooklyn Forest School in 2011 as a parent-child class in Prospect Park. Today it brings over 300 families into the forest to learn and play each week in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Brooklyn Forest’s founders met at the Waldorf School of Garden City, which they attended from preschool through 12th grade. Joylynn went on to study theology and fine arts at Georgetown University and women’s studies in George Washington University’s graduate program. Joylynn has won awards for her work as a community organizer and filmmaker, including GW’s Service to the Community of Women, Georgetown’s Outstanding Community Service, the U.S. President’s Student Service and Senator Kemp Hannon’s Citizen Advancement awards. Charles studied ecology at Gettysburg College and journalism at the University of California at Berkeley. He has reported for the New York Times Magazine, Forbes and NPR and is a founder of the Youth Radio Innovation Lab. As a journalist, Charles has won the Peabody, Edward R. Murrow and Investigative Reporters and Editors awards. Joylynn and Charles are married and live in Brooklyn with their daughter, Sylvia.

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SATURDAY, JUNE 6, 2015

Building Fairy Houses and Confidence In Forest School | Joylynn Holder & Charles Foster. Saturday, 9-11 a.m.

This workshop will engage in both the literal and the metaphorical work of forest school. We will construct playthings and structures from branches, stones and dirt. And we will discuss how we might build a closer relationship to the natural world as individuals, as families, and as a society. One of those pursuits is very simple, the other quite lofty. But somehow they’re connected − perhaps it’s by working with our hands that we can change our minds and our hearts.

From Vision to Reality: Establishing a Nature Preschool | Monica Wiedel-Lubinski & Karen Madigan. Saturday, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Nature preschools are growing in popularity as research continues to prove that we thrive when we deepen our connection with nature. Discover practical approaches from Monica and Karen, founders of The Nature Preschool at Irvine. Our discussion will touch on policies, licensing, budgets, curriculum, student behavior, scheduling, parent relationships, hiring, assessment, health and safety topics – bring your questions as discussion is encouraged!

From the Big City to the Sheltering Woods | Amy Davidson & Jasmine Williams. Saturday, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

The Ark at Johnston Square is Maryland’s only MSDE accredited preschool program designed for three- and four- year-olds in homeless situations. The Ark has partnered with The Nature Preschool at Irvine for three years by making monthly visits.  This session explores our long-term partnership and its positive effect on students and staff. We will discuss the challenges of developing a nature component in an impoverished urban setting and how to facilitate nature experiences for all children regardless of the setting.

Creativity Runs Wild | The Nature Preschool at Irvine. Saturday, 1-2 p.m.

Tour our classrooms and check out dozens of art projects, games and activities that reinforce emergent approaches to nature-based learning.

For the Love of Nature: Outdoor Learning at The Nature Preschool | The Nature Preschool team. Saturday, 2-3:30 p.m.

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!

Supporting Children with Challenging Behaviors in a Nature Preschool Setting | Liza Lowe. Saturday, 2-3:30 p.m.

Nature preschools and forest kindergartens attract a diverse group of children. As educators, we strive to understand our students’ individual needs while working to meet the needs of the learning community as a whole – this can be difficult when one or more of the children before us is struggling with atypical emotions and behaviors. It is possible to meet the needs of your diverse class and enrich the lives of your students through nature-based programs. In this workshop you will learn ways to connect with allied health providers (PTs, OTs and Speech-Language Pathologists), build relationships with families, and create tools to use in your outdoor classroom for children with challenging behaviors.

Risk-Taking and Action Research: The Journey Continues | Lesley Romanoff. Saturday, 3:45-5:15 p.m.

This presentation follows the journey of discovery a group of children and parents made into the outdoors and forest during a two-year action research project. Outdoor components featuring team-building and mindfulness exercises were added to a regular nursery school program in order to better support the specific developmental needs in a particular class. The goal was to introduce the children to the unknown by taking them into the forest on a regular basis. These children gained connections to each other, secured confidence in their abilities, and exponentially expanded their ability to embrace imaginary play in nature.

Supporting Children with Challenging Behaviors in a Nature Preschool Setting | Liza Lowe. Saturday, 3:45-5:15 p.m.

Nature preschools and forest kindergartens attract a diverse group of children. As educators, we strive to understand our students’ individual needs while working to meet the needs of the learning community as a whole – this can be difficult when one or more of the children before us is struggling with atypical emotions and behaviors. It is possible to meet the needs of your diverse class and enrich the lives of your students through nature-based programs. In this workshop you will learn ways to connect with allied health providers (PTs, OTs and Speech-Language Pathologists), build relationships with families, and create tools to use in your outdoor classroom for children with challenging behaviors.

SUNDAY, JUNE 7, 2015

Experiential Learning with Amy Beam | Amy Beam. Sunday, 9-11 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.

Who Needs an Acre? Take 10 Steps Outside! Pathways to Nature Preschool | Boston Nature Center. Sunday, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Early childhood educators often think that they need access to a large green space to help children understand the natural world. This workshop will address these concerns and present practical, easy and successful strategies for getting little ones outdoors and engaged with just ten steps outside the classroom and a few handfuls of dirt.

From Vision to Reality: Establishing a Nature Preschool | Monica Wiedel-Lubinski and Karen Madigan. Sunday, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Nature preschools are growing in popularity as research continues to prove that we thrive when we deepen our connection with nature. Discover practical approaches from Monica and Karen, founders of The Nature Preschool at Irvine. Our discussion will touch on policies, licensing, budgets, curriculum, student behavior, scheduling, parent relationships, hiring, assessment, health and safety topics – bring your questions as discussion is encouraged!

A New Professional Community for Early Childhood Environmental Educators | Christy Merrick. Sunday, 1-2:30 p.m.

Learn how you can join the North American Association for Environmental Education’s (NAAEE) newest initiative to support environmental education for young children. The Natural Start Alliance is helping ensure that all children get the benefit of experiencing nature from birth. Natural Start provides a professional community for nature-based early childhood educators, advocates for the field, promotes research and professional development, and more. Come learn about how you can become engaged in this new alliance, and how you can use it to advance your work.

Turning Nature Inside Out | Alice Wetzel. Sunday, 1-2:30 p.m.

Learn how an established community school is ramping up their nature education by bringing the children out into nature and bringing nature inside to the children.  See documentation of the schools two-prong approach and playground transformation.  Participate in a hands-on activity integrating nature, art, symbolic representation and collaborative learning.

PERSONAL ENRICHMENT
Dependent upon the dates of your attendance, there are also several opportunities for personal enrichment included in the cost of attendance.

  • Early Riser Yoga (Saturday or Sunday morning)
  • Bird Song Morning Hike (Saturday or Sunday morning)
  • Lunch with the Animals (Saturday or Sunday afternoon)
  • Sunset Hike (Saturday evening only)
  • Onsite Project: Mud Pie Kitchen (Saturday evening only)
  • Mother Nature’s Spa (Saturday evening only)

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT CREDITS

  • Nature Preschool Conference Day 1 (Saturday) = 6 Clock Hours Curriculum
  • Nature Preschool Conference Day 2 (Sunday) = 5 Clock Hours Curriculum
  • Keynote Address (Friday) Playing in the World of Nature, Wherever You Are = 2.0 Clock Hours Curriculum

The total number of clock hours for the full conference is 13. Keynote hours are NOT given unless the participant also attended Saturday and/or Sunday.

ACCOMMODATIONS
For your convenience, we have blocked off rooms at the Hyatt Place in Owings Mills. Rather stay outside? Let us pitch a tent for you! 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.)


2014 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.”