Bird's Eye View: Outdoor Teacher Retreat

Fri.-Sat., Oct. 16-17, 2020 
(rescheduled from April 3-4)

Tours at New Canaan Nature Center, New Canaan, CT and Common Ground, New Haven, CT
Workshops at 
Pratt Nature Center, New Millford, CT


About this Nature-Based Training    

Get a bird's eye view into two CT nature-based programs on Friday followed by a full day of professional development on Saturday. We will begin on Friday with a visit at the nature preschool at New Canaan Nature Center from 9:30-11 a.m. followed by a reflective discussion with Q&A and lunch. Next, participants will travel to the NatureYear Program at Common Ground for a visit from 12:30-2 p.m., followed by more facilitated discussion about the learning environments and practices we observe. Our day will conclude at 3:30 p.m. at Common Ground in New Haven, CT. Transportation is not included, so we encourage you to carpool. 

*Note: We have a cap on the number of attendees who can join the Friday observation tours; don't delay if you want to join us!

On Saturday, we will gather at Pratt Nature Center in New Millford, CT. We will explore a range of topics that will inspire and equip you to more fully support children's connections with nature and DAP in nature-based ECE. You can expect hands-on sessions that are indoors and out! Presenters share insights and activities based on their work in nature preschools, forest kindergartens, or other nature-based program settings. 

This training is ideal for caregivers, educators, and others working with children three to seven years old. ERAFANS will provide a professional development certificate at the conclusion of the event. Please dress for the weather, as at least 50% of this event will take place outdoors, and don't forget your canteen!

On Friday, lunch is included; on Saturday, light breakfast and lunch are included. (You can specify dietary restrictions during registration.) We strive to reduce our carbon footprint, so please bring your canteen for drinks on both days and carpool, if possible.

We thank our hosts at New Canaan Nature Center, Common Ground NatureYear Program, and Pratt Nature Center for making this training possible!

Friday Nature-Based Program Tours

New Canaan Nature Center Nature Preschool
New Canaan, CT
 | 9:30-12 p.m.

Common Ground NatureYear (ages 5-12)
New Haven, CT 
| 12:30-3:30 p.m.


Saturday Outdoor Teacher Retreat 
Pratt Nature Center
New Millford, CT
 | 8:30 a.m. - 4 p.m.

Saturday Schedule

Keynote: The Teacher's Path
Monica French, Co-founder and Director of Wild Haven Forest Preschool & Childcare, Baltimore, MD

Understanding our journey as educators, the path the brought us here and the path that lay ahead is crucial to evolving into our best selves. It takes one spark to ignite love and respect for the natural world and it should start within our own hearts! When teachers understand their own relationships to nature, build off their strengths, and model best practices, children thrive. How can a teacher’s approach to nature connection influence children’s experiences outdoors? How do teams of teachers harness their diverse powers to create an integrated atmosphere? Nature-based educators have unique opportunities to cultivate positive relationships with children, their colleagues, and the families they serve outside the classroom. Take a little journey with us today and feel confident in your next steps on the trail and off! 

About the Keynote Presenter:
Monica French, Co-founder and Director of Wild Haven Forest Preschool & Childcare, Baltimore, MD

Monica French has been working in childcare and preschool for over 10 years. Since finding her passion working with children, she has been dreaming of bringing high-quality childcare to Baltimore city, where she grew up and still lives today. When Monica discovered the world of nature-based education, it became clear: these were the kinds of experiences she wanted to cultivate for the children of Baltimore. She is co-founder and director of Wild Haven Forest Preschool and Childcare in Gwynns Falls Leakin Park and looks forward to a future where every child has opportunities to play and learn in nature. Monica is a new mom and on her days off she can be found birdwatching in the backyard with her boy, Mars. 

Saturday Sessions

Being with Beings 
Common Ground Environmental Education Center 
Explore ways of interacting with other living beings we encounter in the course of our work.  At times the enthusiasm of students to catch, touch, and hold creatures interferes with time spent quietly observing.  Likewise, as teachers, our minds often want "to know", to name, to understand, etc. If we take the time to be with beings in particular ways, their stories begin to unfold before us, leading to deeper connections and investigations. In this workshop, we will model ways of being with other beings, including philosophy of interacting with living things and practical tips on encouraging gentle hands and reducing fear in children and adults who are not yet confident in meeting insects and other small living creatures!

Nature and the Young Child: Nurturing a Lasting Relationship
Suzanne Fogel, Westbrook Nature School

Westbrook Nature School offers a unique way to foster meaningful interaction between the young child and the natural world. In this workshop, we will learn how to engage with the child’s wonder of nature through child-led exploration and discovery. We will discuss wilderness skills such as tracking, animal signs, and bird language. Finally, we will consider how song and story add a poetic dimension to the child’s nature experience deepening their empathy for forest dwellers, inspiring a sense of beauty and place, and instilling a lasting love of nature. A portion of this workshop will be held outside, please dress for the weather. Recommended audience: Pre-K educators.

Best Practices for Tool Use 
Common Ground Environmental Education Center 
Children take great satisfaction in doing authentic work with real tools.  At Common Ground, children ages 4 and up saw and split wood, build with hand tools, whittle with knives, and garden with adult and child-sized implements. Join us as we model best practices, talk about our favorite kid-friendly tools, and of course, discuss safety. Participants will leave with their own tree cookie nametag!

The Magic of Fire 
Common Ground Environmental Education Center 

Campfires invite us to gather, building community and creating magic in outdoor programs. This workshop will cover tips and techniques for safe and successful campfire building, tools and equipment we like to use (including some kid-safe woodsplitting tools!), activities to do at the campfire, and strategies for managing fire safely with children. Participants will leave with the start of their own fire-crafted burn bowl!


Assessing Toddlers 
Jane Piselli, New Canaan Nature Center Preschool

Let's consider assessment of toddlers in outdoor settings. Assessment of toddlers may seem tricky or even irrelevant to understanding developmental milestones of the children you teach because you know them so well. Often what teachers believe is needed for an assesment leaves them feeling like it must be completed in indoors with 'proper' materials within rigid parameters. By shifting our perspectives concerning assessment from preparer of interaction to observer, we will notice that children meet and exceed our expectations. When a child is assessed during outdoor free play, this gives us an accurate representation of the children's true capabilities. This workshop examines approaches that that can help!

Ready to join us? REGISTRATION OPEN!

Learn more about our 
payment and refund policies here. Thank you for joining us!

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software