The George B. Storer Foundation has awarded a $117,000 grant to Antioch University New England’s (AUNE) Department of Education to develop its new Nature-Based Early Childhood Education program.
The AUNE initiative will train educators and teachers in nature-based early childhood principles and help them start nature preschools and forest kindergartens. It will also provide professional development to New England educators who want to bring more programming on nature and the outdoors into their public-school early childhood programs and environmental centers.
The Storer grant is funding the development of a 13-month certificate program of integrated courses aimed at early childhood professionals and/or entrepreneurs who want to create new programs. It is also supporting development of a specialization in nature-based early childhood for matriculated students in AUNE’s Teacher Certification/Integrated Learning master’s degree program. Students may specialize in elementary, early childhood, or holistic special education.
AUNE plans to eventually take its nature-based initiative to teachers in inner-city schools in New England and then to other cities in the Northeast and Canada.
“We’re honored to be chosen to develop this new nature-based education programming,” said David Sobel, core faculty member in AUNE’s Department of Education and a leader in nature-based childhood education. “A tremendous interest in nature-based education nationwide has been demonstrated by the overwhelming response to the workshops and conferences we’ve presented over the last few years. The Storer grant will help us continue to be out in front in this exciting and innovative educational field.”
Educators are appealing for more professional development and training in nature-based education. Many are interested in naturalizing existing programs and starting forest kindergartens and nature preschools. These programs, popular in Europe over the past twenty years but relatively new in the United States, take a different approach to curriculum than conventional, mostly indoor, early childhood programs.