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Opening Gathering with Cooking Experience
A beloved way to build community is to cook and share a meal. Bring one vegetable for friendship soup, which we will enjoy with our lunch. (Sink and kitchen items to prep your vegetable will be provided.
Keynote Remarks: Why Should Young Children Play Outside?
Monica Wiedel-Lubinski, Executive Director of the Eastern Region Association of Forest and Nature Schools
What is the role of play when it comes to outdoor learning? How do educators support (or stifle) play? Here we examine play as an essential element of nature-based learning, developmentally appropriate practice, and skill development in the context of nature preschools.
Embracing the Winter Landscape
Ann Ward and Alyssa Maley, Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education
Join the Schulykill Center's preschool team for a winter walk! Teachers offer an intimate glimpse at how the nature preschool approaches seasonal learning on their grounds as they share oodles of inspiring ideas for outdoor inquiry. Discover how art experiences, aesthetic appreciation of the landscape, and frosty winter weather go hand in hand.
Building Forts and Minds
Patricia Cornelius, The Waldorf School of Philadelphia
Educational and environmental psychologists, along with educators in the field, have taken a keen interest in fort building. It’s a constant presence in early and middle childhood. Experts agree that den, fort, or secret space creation offers a host of cognitive and psychological benefits for the developing child. Our role as educators is to respect these sacred places and provide environments that encourage them. This workshop will look at supporting research and learn how classroom design and the proper materials can encourage children to create these special places.
Healthy Risk in Play: How & Why Nature Educators Can Safely Keep Risk in Play
Jim McCullough, Adventure Walkers, VA
Nature based education promotes confidence, self-esteem, and independence through small achievable tasks. This engaging workshop encourages teachers to effectively frame the child-driven learning which happens in nature while guiding the children to manage risk. Teachers will have the opportunity to discuss what risk is; how and why our culture became risk averse; and how to effectively allow risk in play for the benefit of the child’s development. Teachers will prepared to offer nature-based learning opportunities in any setting which develop children’s critical, independent thinking skills.
Open House Tour: Visit Schuylkill Center's Nature Preschool
The Schuylkill Center’s nature preschool opens their doors for a look at their learning environments. Feel free to ask questions and network with others as you learn more about their program.
Monica French and Mepi Meyers, Wild Haven/Baltimore City Recreation and Parks
Grab a cup of hot cinnamon cider and warm up while we craft! Handmade games and props help extend outdoor play. Network with other educators and unwind as you create lovely wild crafted items for your program.
A Day in the Life of Child-Led Investigation
Jessica Handron and Christina Hamilton, The Discovery School at Beechwood, Pittsburgh, PA
How can observations of our children’s natural curiosities guide us as we create meaningful child-led investigations? Together we will explore ways to shape authentic investigations, develop intentional provocations, and support children’s reflection through documentation. Be prepared to share ideas, experiment, and work together in a hands-on, collaborative session!
Featured experts and educators field questions about unique considerations for nature-based programs. Risk management, policies, budgets, and more will be covered. Bring your questions!
You can learn more about our payment and refund policies here. We look forward to meeting you at the Retreat!