Nature-based learning is a growing phenomenon. The evidence is strong that kids who learn outdoors have significantly less stress, reduced ADHD symptoms, more resourcefulness and creativity, enhanced sensory perception, lower rates of physical and emotional illness and obesity.
So how can nature-based education be a part of your programming? How can you, as a homeschooler or traditional educator, learn how to bring nature into your lessons? We've put together this list of workshops, courses and programs to learn the basics of nature-based education. Feel free to let us know of other programs as well!
Over the past 30 years, 8 Shields has developed training pathways that support mentors and leaders to change individual lives, and entire communities, in becoming more connected. This model incorporates traditional mentoring and deep nature connection practices, fully supported through our neurological, emotional, and physical connection to the natural world. 8 Shields hopes to re-awaken the 8 attributes of connection in people, and in turn, help heal the widespread disconnection with nature and loss of connective cultures worldwide.
The Academy of Forest Kindergarten Teachers
The Academy of Forest Kindergarten Teachers offers high quality, experiential, in-depth training and certification for current and up and coming early childhood educators dedicated to connecting children with Nature. The Academy's comprehensive teacher training program provides our students with the theoretical, practical skills, knowledge, and magic to become exceptional educators and mentors in the field.
Antioch University New England Nature Based Leadership Institute
The Antioch University New England Nature Based Leadership Institute links scholarship, practice, demonstration, and inspiration. The Institute founders and collaborators, comprising leaders who embrace and practice the tenets of Nature-Based Leadership, inspire, educate, and develop values-based leaders and leadership committed to applying nature’s lessons to living, learning, leading, and serving.
Check out In Bloom Conferences: a series of one-day conferences offered by Antioch University New England featuring early childhood educators and workshops to help you engage in the nature programming of your choice.
Bienenstock Natural Playgrounds Workshops
Bienenstock Natural Playgrounds offers workshops and trainings led by dynamic educators are world-renowned nature and play experts to guide your teachers, families and communities toward a new level of engagement. Workshops and trainings can be coupled with design consultations, occur on-site, so that they can best assess and utilize your outdoor spaces. Conferences and workshops are available to small groups or large systems.
CedarSong Forest Kindergarten Teacher Training
The Cedarsong Way is a compassion scaffolded, inquiry-based teaching method developed by Erin Kenny over the past two decades. The Cedarsong Way is a specific method of teaching science that is distinguished by use of an outdoor classroom, child-driven flow learning, child-inspired emergent curriculum and inquiry-based teaching.
There are three options of The Cedarsong Way Forest Kindergarten Teacher Training. The trainings are generally booked at least two months in advance however it is possible there may be openings before that. Space is limited in residential trainings since only six trainees are allowed on-site at any one time.
The Children Learning with Nature Institute
The Children Learning with Nature Institute is a three-day teacher and parent training program that is based on the simple premise that just as children learn best by doing, rather than being shown or told abstractly what to do, adults do as well. More than half of the program is held outdoors and much of the program is in small group experiential workshops. The Children Learning with Nature Institute's focus is on birth to 8 years old, but the topics and skills are applicable to all children and teens.
Eastern Region Association of Forest and Nature School (ERAFANS)
ERAFANS offers extensive programming designed to support early childhood practitioners at any career stage. Among their offerings are online trainings, outdoor teacher retreats, workshops, custom professional development, certifications, and seminars to provide responsive nature-based training, state by state, as members make requests.
NAAEE's eePro is an online platform that provides environmental education (EE) professionals and students from around the world with opportunities to network, discuss important issues, and access high-quality professional development resources. Search the database for workshops, conference and online learning opportunities around the country.
Growing Up WILD
Project WILD is an interdisciplinary conservation and environmental education program that focuses on wildlife and habitat. The goal of Project WILD is to develop awareness, knowledge, skills, and commitment resulting in informed decisions, responsible behavior, and constructive actions concerning wildlife and the environment. Growing Up WILD Educator Training provides formal and nonformal educators with a comprehensive overview of Growing Up WILD, as well as practical hands-on training in its implementation.
California-based Life Lab has been a leader in garden-based learning programming, curriculum, and professional development. Life Lab has trained tens of thousands of educators across the nation and provided inspiration for thousands of school gardens.
Mindstretchers is a dynamic training consultancy working with early years and primary settings based in Perthshire, Scotland.
"We believe that children should have access to natural learning resources and that they should be able to lead their own learning. Through our training and resources we hope to share this philosophy with anyone working with children. All of our training can be applied to children from birth to 11. Above all else, we want to see children receiving the best education possible in a multi-sensory environment. We hope to share our positive attitude.
Natural Learning Initiative(NLI) at NC State offers professional development and training that includes theory, principles, and techniques that guide the design of play and learning environments with an emphasis on the design and management of natural environments to support healthy child development. The roles of play professionals, educators, and cultural animators are particularly emphasized in landscape design.
Professional development and training programs are delivered in live conferences, symposia, and hands-on workshops, as well as webinars and distance learning certificate courses. Distance learning programs offered through NC State University disseminate NLI resources across the State of North Carolina and beyond.
Natural Start Alliance
NAAEE's Natural Start Alliance lists upcoming trainings, workshops, and conferences offered to nature-based early learning professionals.
Engaging, inspiring, research-based Nature Explore Workshops support comprehensive learning with nature. Educator Workshops support adults who work with children in schools, early childhood and environmental education programs.
Nature Play SA
South Australia-based Nature Play SA provides a range of services to assist and support those in education settings, including incursions and excursions, professional development, conferences and workshops, guest presentations and parent information evenings, and site consults to offer advice on creative ways to use your outdoor learning spaces.
NOME Study Tours - Nordic Outside Model of Education
N.O.M.E. or Nordic Outside Model of Education Study Tours offers study tours geared towards educators, policymakers and change-makers who wish to make a difference in the lives of children. The tour visits Forest Kindergartens, Adventure Playgrounds, natural playscapes, along with Udeskole and Friluftsliv environments demonstrating the cultural underpinnings of the Nordic Model of N.O.M.E.
Nurture in Nature Campference
Australia-based Nurture in Nature describes its annual Campference as "a sleepover professional development camp for nature-loving teachers!" If that interests you, check out this weekend-long conference is aimed at educators who work with kids and teens of all ages who are passionate about learning more about the powerful role that nature connection can have in their services. The 2019 workshops included "Wandering With Wonder in the Wetlands," "Nature Sketching & Journaling for Kids, Teachers & Families," & "Creating inspiring outdoor learning and play spaces."
Project Learning Tree
Project Learning Tree (PLT)’s professional development helps educators learn how to integrate environmental education into their teaching and become comfortable teaching outdoors—in urban, suburban, and rural environments. Workshops and online courses teach educators how best to use PLT’s instructional materials with their own students in their own setting and how to engage with (and draw upon) their community in learning about and taking action to address local environmental issues. Continuing education credits are available in most states.
In-person trainings include one-day workshops, in-service days, a series of classes spread throughout a semester, week-long institutes, and other sustained and intensive models. These events are planned and conducted by certified facilitators and customized for specific grade levels, topics, and teaching situations.
An online course can be completed in your own time, wherever you are. The courses for early childhood, K-8, and becoming a GreenSchool include demonstration videos, simulations, planning exercises, and state-specific resources.
Sharing Nature is a worldwide movement dedicated to helping children and adults deepen their relationship with nature. Sharing Nature uses creative, life-changing nature activities and Flow Learning™, a revolutionary teaching system that fosters empathy and makes ecological principles come alive.
Sharing Nature trainings incorporate the latest research on play theory and why play is integral to profound learning. Sharing Nature's play-centered nature awareness games and methods create a dynamic atmosphere for learning new ideas and embracing new experiences, leading participants seamlessly into a greater appreciation for the natural world.
"All of our programs support you in educating for a more healthy and just future. Grounded in the pedagogies of Education for Sustainability, we endeavor to support educators to see themselves as agents of change in a dynamic system. Together we’ll cultivate a sense of joy and wonder for the world around us and share strategies to connect you and your students to social-ecological communities. Our team uses a research-based, relationship-driven approach to professional learning that supports you in building content knowledge, deepening your practice, accessing resources and making connections to your schools or organizations."
Educator workshops are offered throughout the year, with many programs in the summer. Many of the workshops are held in partnership with other organizations and many of the programs can be taken for graduate continuing education credits.
Summer Institute for Nature and Placed-Based Early Childhood Education
A hands-on, experiential professional development event at Prescott College in Arizona. The 5-day institute offers the opportunity to collaborate with early childhood educators. Learn more.
TimberNook began as an experiment in pediatric occupational therapist Angela Hanscom’s own backyard. She was hoping to make a difference in her local community. Today, the Timbernook approach is being practiced all over the world. For new TimberNook providers, Timbernook training is offered which is specifically designed to manage a TimberNook business and unique outdoor play environment. For U.S., Canada or Europe-based prospective providers, this training consists of five days of intensive hands-on learning at TimberNook’s 12-acre wooded headquarters in Barrington, New Hampshire. For Australian and New Zealand providers, training takes place at the Hawke’s Bay TimberNook location.