Natural Wonder Summit, June 4-6, 2021
Ashland Nature Center, Hockessin, DE


About the Summit

The Natural Wonder Summit is a very special gathering for nature-based educators, administrators, and childcare providers. This three-day event is a joyful way to explore nature-based early childhood education and personal natural connection. We recharge with old friends and new as we celebrate outdoor play and learning! 

Situated in the beautiful Delaware Valley, Ashland Nature Center is the backdrop for our three-day 'hybrid' gathering from Friday, June 4 to Sunday, June 6, 2021. Our summit features sessions for educators working with children ages three through eight years old (preschool - 3rd grade).  We are grateful to our partners at Delaware Nature Society and the University of Delaware for helping organizing this incredible training event!

Each year the Natural Wonder Summit features a Friday night keynote session that highlights important topics in nature-based education. This year, we begin with a Virtual Ceremony Circle with featured guests. Saturday includes in-person presentations and experiential outdoor workshops at Ashland Nature Center. On Sunday, there are optional
 tours (additional cost) at Coverdale Farm or an opportunity to experience a natural wonder (spawning horseshoe crabs and shorebirds!).

Breakfast and an afternoon snack are provided on Saturday, but please pack your lunch and bring a canteen for drinks. 

ERAFANS will provide a professional development certificate at the conclusion of the event. Please dress for the weather, as most of this training will take place outdoors, rain or shine. 

COVID-19 protocols are in place including a Health Check (form to complete prior to arrival) and required use of face coverings. Participants should bring an outdoor camping chair or blanket to physically distance during the training.  Your confirmation email contains further details.

About Our Keynote Presenters

Caylin Gans, Forest Schooled
Seth Kipavare, Outdoor Playworker, Ottawa, Canada

Dr. Diane Kashin, RECE, Coordinator for the York Region Nature Collaborative
Hopi Lovell Martin, Waabizheshi Dodem Oshkaabewis (Ojibwe Marten Clan Ceremonial Helper, Messenger, and Fire Keeper), founder of 
Edge of the Bush

Caylin Gans and Seth Kipavare hail from Ottawa, Canada. They met while delivering an outdoor play program in Canada, which brought outdoor unstructured play opportunities to children in their local community. Seth is currently a student and works at a children's centre where she incorporates outdoor playwork. She has a talent for storytelling and inspiring imaginative play. Caylin has a background in environmental education and has delivered Forest and Nature School programs with a variety of age groups while living in the UK, USA, and now Canada. She is also the author of the blog and book, both titled Forest Schooled, and has an unusual love of rainy weather.  

Hopi Lovell Martin, Waabizheshi Dodem Oshkaabewis
Nanaboozhoo (Greetings in the name of Ojibwe First Teacher)! I am Hopi Lovell Martin. Born in Massachusetts, raised in Tkaronto (Toronto) in Canada. My ancestry is Lenape, Briton, and European. I belong to Waabizheshi Dodem (Ojibwe Marten Clan). My Traditional role is as Oshkaabewis (Ceremonial Helper, Messenger, and Fire Keeper). I am also a PhD candidate in Developmental Psychology and Education specializing in Indigenous Early Years Pedagogy. and PhD Candidate in Early Years Indigenous Pedagogy

Dr. Diane Kashin, RECE, York Region Nature Collaborative Coordinator is working in collaboration with Hopi Martin to develop Seasonal Pedagogy in early childhood education through our new Land as Teacher: Community of Practice on the Storypark app.

Keynote Description: Virtual Ceremony Circle

Children Can Play Anywhere:
Creating Inclusive Community Spaces through Outdoor Play

Join our Virtual Ceremony Circle led by Hopi Lovell Martin, Waabizheshi Dodem Oshkaabewis (Ojibwe Marten Clan) with featured guests that centers on natural wonder and nature-based education as it evolves in a wide range of communities. 

A 'Sharing Circle' is an Anishinaabe/Indigenous approach to sharing Knowledge. Considering 'Natural Wonder' from within this Circle creates an 'ethical space' for sharing multiple perspectives in a way that respects Indigenous Knowledge of the land we are in and knowledge of nature-based learning or 'forest school' that has come from Europe. Ideally, we would be able to sit together in a Circle touching Mother Earth around a Sacred Fire, but the COVID-19 pandemic has meant that we must adapt this approach to a virtual format.

The terms “Forest and Nature School” can lead some to imagine children playing and learning in expansive outdoor spaces, like forests, meadows, or beaches where “nature” abounds. But what if we took the perspective that children can play anywhere? And that nature is everywhere? How might this change the way we think about nature-based education and those who can access it? During this session, guests offer discussion about what they’ve learned about developing programs that bring seasonal, forest and nature school pedagogy to the grass patches and rain puddles of urban neighborhoods, where nature is not always obvious. Indigenous perspective helps us frame nature connection as an essential way of living and learning over the last 45,000 years and the western disconnect in modern times. Participants will be welcome to join the discussion as we explore how this helps create more accessible and inclusive opportunities for outdoor play and learning.


Friday, June 4
7-9 p.m. Virtual Ceremony Circle with featured keynote guests (online)

Caylin, Seth, Hopi, and Diane will engage participants during an online from 7 - 9 p.m. We will make space for networking in breakout rooms so you can have discussion with new friends, too!

Saturday, June 5
8:30 a.m. 4 p.m. Outdoor workshops and sessions

Registration and breakfast (included) begin at 8:30 a.m. at the Ashland Nature Center, followed by an opening gathering at 9 a.m. Concurrent outdoor sessions run throughout the day with a break for lunch at 12 p.m.  Remember to pack a lunch! Sessions conclude at 4 p.m. 

5-7 p.m. Sunset Happy Hour (optional)
Join us for a sunset happy hour with outdoor games around the campfire from 5-7 p.m., just perfect for networking with fellow conference-goers.  

Sunday, June 6
9-11 a.m. or
 12-2 p.m.

Select from two tour options: Choose from a tour of the Coverdale Farm Preserve or discover Shorebirds and Horseshoe Crabs of the Delaware Bayshore. Please use these links to register for these separate optional tours: Coverdale Farm tour or Delaware Bayshore tour.

Workshop Descriptions

Connected Through Nature: The College School & UD Lab School Science Buddies 
Katie Pollock, University of Delaware Lab School

Katie paints a picture of the long running peer mentoring program at UD.  Through pairing middle schoolers and preschoolers up for weekly Forest Friday adventures, beautiful relationships ensue. Not only are the children connecting to one another, but they are connecting to nature in deep and meaningful ways. We will share about the impact of this program on children, families, staff, and community. Let us warm your heart as these friendships have warmed ours! 

Methods that Work: A Nature Teacher’s Toolkit for Managing Conflict and Creating Joyful, Peaceful Learning Environments
Susan Chlebowski

Even in the peaceful outdoors, there will always be conflict and challenging behaviors when working with young children. An experienced nature-based Montessori teacher and trained mediator shares tricks of the trade to limit conflict, manage challenging behaviors, ease transitions and support young children in the all-important development of emotional self-regulation. 

Shaping Little Ecological Worldviews: A Case Study of Ecological Identity Indicators in Forest Preschool
Rose Brusaferro, Backyard Basecamp

Early childhood environmental education can influence the development of a child's ecological worldview by helping them subtly explore their own ecological identity. To explore the influence of nature play on children's ecological identity development, a forest preschool in Baltimore city was studied for three months. The findings shared in this presentation illustrate the application of an ecologically-centered assessment that features indicators of ecological identity development in children, and their adoption of biophilic values. 

Business 101: Starting Your Forest Kindergarten
Stacey Gummy and Jessica Ladin, Hickory Hill Nature School, Kennett Square, DE

Are you interested in starting your own Forest Kindergarten or children's nature program? Do you even know where to begin? Stacey Gummey of Hickory Hill Nature School, runs the first forest kindergarten to be state-licensed and CedarSong accredited. Stacey will take you step by step on how to begin your own Forest Kindergarten or program.  She will explain in detail the processes of finding the right location, zoning, The CedarSong Way accreditation, state licensing, outreach and the and all the in-between stages.

Discovering Insects
Sheila Vincent, Delaware Nature Society

Go on an insect investigation to find and identify insects in meadows, woodlands and marsh at Ashland Nature Center.  Learn about the equipment that is used, how we approach educating young people about our six-legged friends, and take back some ideas on how you can open up the world of insects to your students. 

Delaware Master Naturalist Program
R. Blake Moore, University of Delaware Cooperative Extension

The Delaware Master Naturalist Program kicked off its first core training on March 11, 2020 with the goal of training volunteers to become naturalists. Delaware Master Naturalists will provide a continued commitment to nature through volunteer service activities. The statewide training program is administered by the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension and the Delaware Nature Society. The Delaware Master Naturalist Program partners with environmental and natural resource organizations throughout Delaware to create a network of committed volunteers to help accomplish and expand their environmental missions. This workshop will provide an overview of the program, tell the story of how the program came to be, and talk about program goals for the future.

Green By Nature
Erynn DeGennaro and Judi VanderWerff, Delaware Nature Society

Delaware Nature Society’s Green by Nature program is a hands on learning experience for children ages 2-5 years old. We encourage preschoolers to gain confidence outdoors through discovery and play in nature.  Join Delaware Nature Society staff as we discuss the ins and outs of leading little one’s outdoors and take home some tips on engaging children with nature.

Art Of the Every Day (and Weather)
Lesley Romanoff,  Director/Lead Teacher, Takoma Park Cooperative Nursery School

Art isn't just paint and paper or hand to clay. As we moved to an all outdoor model, we found that art is everywhere and in every weather. It's in the choices we make to see, feel, and move. It's seen in the way the sun moves behind the clouds and we move with it. It's felt in the way we can hold and then drink cold rainwater running down the side of a beech tree. As we moved to an all-outdoor model, we discovered the art of the liminal and how to create and celebrate transient (ephemeral) art. Participants will learn about and then craft and document the art of the every day (and every weather).

Sunday Field Trip Excursions

Coverdale Farm Preserve

Sunday, June 6 from 9am - 11am
Meet at Coverdale Farm Preserve, 543 Way Road, Wilmington, DE  (9am-11am)
Led by Coverdale Farm Preserve Staff
Fee: $25 per person
Notes: Participants should bring lunch and meet at the location.
Register here!

Coverdale Farm is a dynamic living ecosystem that rebuilds, replenishes, and respects its natural resources while raising nutrient-dense food for our community.  Our unique product of farm-based education engages all ages in the wonder of regenerative agriculture from soil to stomach. During this delicious adventure you will step into the boots of a farmer.  Move 200 hens across their pasture without lifting a finger. Collect their beautiful and nutritious eggs in rainbow shades of cream to green to blue. Hike to hives to see thousands of honeybees pollinating our gardens.  Crawl through a caterpillar tunnel to see the growing summer’s bounty. Find our furry four-legged land management staff to find out how their work enriches the soil and keeps invasive plant species at bay. Along the way we will share our favorite teachable moments with you from farm to classroom.

Shorebirds and Horseshoe Crabs of the Delaware Bayshore

Sunday, June 6 from 12-2pm
Tour departs from Ashland Nature Center, 3511 Barley Mill Road, Hockessin, DE
Led by: Joe Sebastiani, Ashland Nature Center Manager and Judy Montgomery
Fee: $25 per person
Notes: Participants should bring lunch and binoculars if you have them (you can borrow ours if you need to); plan to meet at location.
Register here!

One of nature’s greatest spectacles takes place on the Delaware Bay in Spring…the world’s largest concentration of breeding horseshoe crabs, and the migratory birds that feed on them.  Hundreds of thousands of ancient horseshoe crabs haul themselves on Bay beaches, literally covering the sand as they bury their clutches of tiny green eggs. Shorebirds migrate to the Bay from points south on their way to their arctic breeding grounds for a feeding frenzy of this nutrient-rich bonanza.  This crab-bird phenomenon is a spectacular sight to see and has been taking place for millennia. We’ll get hands-on with the horseshoe crabs and conduct a “crab flipping activity” to save the ones that are stuck on the beach. Look for shorebirds, gulls, herons, eagles, and the wonderful birds of this protected area. 


If you're looking for an area hotel, visit the Holiday Inn Express-Wilmington North-Brandywine and ask for the Natural Wonder Summit block of discounted rooms.

Ready to join us? 

And don't forget to nominate a nature-based teacher you admire for the Wonder Award!  

Learn more about our payment and refund policies here or read our waiver for program participation. Thank you for joining us!

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