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 our keynote speakers will present ONLINE! Saturday includes engaging, IN-PERSON presentations and experiential outdoor workshops. Small, in-person workshops will take place throughout the day on Saturday at Ashland Nature Center. On Sunday, choose from optional tours of 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; training is pending MD and DE approval of training hours. Please dress for the weather, as up to 100% of this event will take place outdoors, rain or shine.
COVID-19 protocols are in place including a Health Check (form to complete prior to arrival), temperature check, 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.
Caylin Gans, Forest Schooled and
Seth Mbanzare, Outdoor Playworker, Ottawa, Canada
Caylin Gans and Seth Mbanzare hail from Ottawa, Canada. They met while delivering a “Play in Parks” program for the Child & Nature Alliance of Canada, which brought outdoor, unstructured, play opportunities to children in their local community parks. Seth is currently a student and works at achildren'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.
On Friday evening, the keynote session is online from 7 - 9 p.m. We will make space for networking in breakout rooms so you can say hello to new friends!
On Saturday, 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 workshops continue throughout the day with a break for lunch at 12 p.m. Remember to pack a lunch! Sessions conclude at 4 p.m., but you can 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.
On Sunday, there are two tour options: Choose from a tour of the Coverdale Farm Preserve or discover Shorebirds and Horseshoe Crabs of the Delaware Bayshore. Participants should plan to meet at the location (details to follow if you select tours).
Bringing Forest and Nature School Pedagogy to the City Caylin Gans, Forest Schooled and Seth Mbanzare
This workshop will take a deeper dive into the theme of creating inclusive community spaces through outdoor play. We’ll explore practical ways of delivering Forest and Nature School pedagogy in urban settings (or places often overlooked when we think of “Nature”) and the challenges and triumphs of trying. We’ll consider ways of engaging communities to enable children to access outdoor, unstructured, play in the places where they live.
Connected Through Nature: The College School & UD Lab School Science Buddies
Katie Pollock and Stacy Poplos, University of Delaware Lab School
Katie and Stacy paint a picture of their long running peer mentoring program. 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
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, Wild Haven Forest Preschool & Childcare, Baltimore City Recreation and Parks
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.
Spiders: Good Guys or Bad Guys?
Kerry Wilson, Saint Anne’s Episcopal School, Middletown, DE
Join Kerry Wilson to explore all things spider related. Discuss key components to cross curricular, project-based learning about spiders. Become the student as we explore spider habitat and imagine all the ways we can embrace the study of spiders in a developmentally appropriate way. This unit will be shared at the kindergarten level but can be adapted to suit many ages.
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.
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.
Registration coming soon.
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.
Registration coming soon.
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.
Let's stay together! The Delaware Nature Society has rustic communal cabins available for your stay. at an extremely reasonable cost of $25/night. Book your accommodations here. If you prefer to stay at an area hotel, visit the Holiday Inn Express-Wilmington North-Brandywine and ask for the Natural Wonder Summit block of discounted rooms.
And don't forget to nominate a nature-based teacher you admire for the Wonder Award!