There was a child went forth every day;
And the first object he look’d upon, that object he became;
And that object became part of him for the day,
or a certain part of the day, or for many years,
or stretching cycles of years.
The early lilacs became part of this child,
And grass, and white and red morning-glories,
and white and red clover,
and the song of the phoebe-bird,
And the Third-month lambs,
and the sow’s pink-faint litter,
and the mare’s foal, and the cow’s calf…
The new Nature-Based Early Childhood program in the Department of Education at Antioch University New England trains teachers, administrators, and founders of nature preschools and forest kindergartens.
The forest kindergarten movement has been thriving in Europe for the last three decades and has recently taken root in the United States. Simultaneously, there has been a growing number of nature preschools in the United States. Both nature preschools and forest kindergartens have a uniquely different approach to curriculum than conventional indoor early childhood programs. Currently, there is a lack of professional development, training and leadership in this new field of nature-based early childhood education.
- To provide training and professional development for teachers who wish to teach in nature preschools and forest kindergartens.
- To provide training and professional development for entrepreneurs and administrators who wish to create and administer nature preschools and forest kindergartens.
- To provide training and professional development for early childhood professionals who would like to incorporate more nature/outdoors programming in their existing early childhood programs.
- To create a network of nature preschools and forest kindergartens in New England to support visitation and support.
- To create resources, (ie. a website, policy books, parent education material) which support the development and evolution of these programs.
- To create living examples, documentation, and research
The faculty aspire to make the nature-based early childhood courses as practical as possible. Therefore, the goal for each course will be for each student generate a product that is tangibly useful in his/her work situation. This will include program brochures, policy development, business plans, curriculum documentation materials a la Reggio, grant proposals, and parent newsletters. Program staff will assist in publication and web design so that founders of new programs can be supported in developing materials to launch their programs.
Nature-based Early Childhood Concentration within the Elementary Education Certification/Integrated Learning Program (available summer 2013)
This option is available for fully matriculated students within the Elementary Education Certification/Integrated Learning Program. The current early childhood certification option will be modified so that matriculated students can focus on traditional early childhood certification or can add a set of courses to focus on the nature-based early childhood option. Students who elect this option will take an additional three credits in the nature-based early childhood area. These students will also complete a required early childhood internship in a nature pre-school/forest kindergarten setting.
For Continuing Education students (available summer 2013)
Early childhood professionals who are not matriculated students will be able to take some individual courses for CEU’s or graduate credit starting with the Nature-based Early Childhood Curriculum course taught by Patti Bailie, offered in July 2013.
Nature Preschool/Forest Kindergarten Professional Development Certificate (available summer 2014)
This is a teacher/administrator professional development option for early childhood professionals. Participants will take a set of courses over a period of thirteen months, from summer to summer, only for continuing education credits, or for graduate school credits. The program will include four to six courses. If taken for credit, these courses will bear in the range of 12 to 15 credits and will lead to a certificate in Nature-Based Early Childhood. Participants who take these courses for credit will be able to transfer these credits into the Integrated Learning/Elementary, Early Childhood, and Holistic Special Education Teacher Certification program within five years, if they are interested in a master’s degree.
1. Nature-based Early Childhood Curriculum (2 credits)
July 8–12, 2013
Faculty: Patti Bailie
Nature preschools and forest kindergartens have a uniquely different approach to curriculum than conventional indoor early childhood centers. This course will focus on the distinctive elements for outdoor programming for children aged three to six. Topics will include the value of unstructured play, fostering independence, nature and language development, the balance of indoors and outdoors experience, interfacing with the conventional elementary curriculum in literacy, math and science, and connections to the community.
2. Landscape Analysis and Design for Nature Play and Learning (1 credit)
September 21–22, 2013
Faculty: Ginny Sullivan
How experience in nature promotes engagement with the early childhood standards. Understanding the roles of the teacher, the child, and the environment. Using and modifying the existing landscape. Site assessment, analysis and schematic design as tools to study the strengths and weaknesses of your location for a nature-based early childhood program. Establishing boundaries, pathways, and destinations to support play and learning.
3. Natural History for Early Childhood (1 credit)
October 5–6, 2013
Faculty: Susie Spikol Faber
The best forest kindergarten teachers are both knowledgeable about early childhood and knowledgeable about local natural history. This course will focus on learning the natural history of northern New England that most directly relates to being outdoors with children. Participants will learn the flora, fauna and natural phenomena and skills that effectively engage young children. Fire-building, basket-making, nature art, tracking, children’s literature as a vehicle to nature exploration, and wild edibles will be some of the topics considered.
We’ll discuss both winter and spring natural history with a focus on how to keep children engaged under cold and/or wet conditions.
4. Movement and Storytelling in the Pre-K Classroom (1 credit)
October 26–27, 2013
Faculty: Libby Haddock
Movement and stories lay a healthy and joyful foundation for physical, emotional, social, and cognitive development in young children. This course will explore the importance of storytelling and movement in the daily life of children and in the classroom environment. Students will experience a variety of ways to use storytelling, puppetry, singing games, and practical activities to enrich the early childhood classroom.
5. Internship in Nature Preschool or Forest Kindergarten (3 credits)
Offered all semesters starting fall 2013
300-hour internship in a recommended nature preschool or forest kindergarten. This internship is for full-time matriculated students who are candidates for early childhood certification in the Integrated Learning/Elementary and Early Childhood programs in the Education Department. Internships sites are chosen and or approved by Education faculty.
6. Business Planning for Nature Preschools and Forest Kindergartens (2 credits)
Faculty: Ken Finch
Starting a nature-based early childhood program requires business savvy and financial planning. This course will address the nitty-gritty planning necessary to get a program up and running. We’ll focus on the creation of business plans, including: simple market analyses, promotion, site and facility needs, staffing requirements and options, the crucial income and expense projections, fundraising options and basic risk management issues.
Participants will draft a three-year budget for their operation, rough out a promotional flyer and/or website, and prepare and practice persuasive verbal descriptions and “sales pitches” for their school. We’ll allocate plenty of time to share your own experiences and ideas, and will take a close look at existing models that have proven successful in the U.S.
7. Early Childhood Education Pre-K to 3rd ( 2 credits)
Faculty: Deb Kardane
This course will focus on teaching and learning in the early childhood classroom (Pre-K to 3rd Grade). Throughout the years that children spend in educational settings, their successful learning is dependent not just on instruction, but on personal connections with important adults who support and facilitate their learning. It is through these connections that children develop not only academic skills but also positive learning dispositions and confidence in themselves as learners. Warmth and responsiveness in care-giving creates the conditions within which young children can explore and learn about their world.
Good early childhood curriculum does not come out of a box or a teacher-proof manual. Teachers need to know, understand, and use a wide array of effective approaches, strategies, and tools to positively influence young children’s development and learning and need to recognize that every child constructs knowledge in personally and culturally familiar ways. In this course, students will consider the preceding in the design, implementation, and evaluation of meaningful, challenging curriculum that promotes comprehensive developmental and learning outcomes for all young children.
8. Risk Management for Nature-based Early Childhood (2 credits)
Faculty: Ann Stires and TBA
Being outdoors with children in all weather requires another level of risk management beyond fire drills and correct sneezing instructions. Topics that will be considered include: hazard identification, appropriate planning for risk, kinds of risky play to allow, (i.e. tree climbing, skating) versus which to discourage, research on the relationship between nature play and health.
This course will include opportunities to observe the program at the Juniper Hill School in Alna, Maine, and conversation with the teachers about daily risk management decisions.
9. Working with Parents and Community (1 credit)
Faculty: Susan Weber
Nature preschools and forest kindergartens are different kinds of places; therefore parents and community members need to be educated about the mission and practices of the school. Parents need to be prepared to provide appropriate clothes, do regular tick checks, be prepared for bee stings. And parents need to volunteer in the school and with fund-raising.
In this course we’ll participate in mock parent conferences, write letters to parents to explain nature school programs, and practice working with parents who are upset about their children always coming home wet and dirty.
10. Childhood and Nature (3 credits)
Faculty: David Sobel
When children have access to free play in natural areas, they do the same things, around the country and around the world. They make special places, go on adventures, develop fantasy games, go hunting and gathering, craft small worlds. These recurrent play patterns can be used as design principles to help structure engaging outdoor activities with children.
During our days together, we’ll recollect our own favorite childhood experiences and spend time outside exploring some of these recurrent play patterns. We’ll discuss the research on the relationship between childhood play in nature and environmental behavior in adults. Then we’ll use these experiences to design new place-based education approaches to nature programming at early childhood centers, schools, nature centers, and environmental programs.
11. Advanced Topics in Nature-based Early Childhood (credits variable)
Offered all semesters, starting summer 2014
This course provides a crediting vehicle for students who participate in a variety of workshops and conferences at Antioch University New England and other nature-based early childhood workshops and conferences around the country. Students can participate in the Starting Out Right and In Bloom annual seminars and conferences and receive credit for participation plus additional work. Similarly, students could participate in similar conferences at the Irvine Nature Center in Maryland or the Chippewa Nature Center in Michigan and complete additional work coordinated by a core faculty member.
12. School Change Practicum in Nature Preschool/ Forest Kindergarten (3 credits)
Offered all semesters starting fall 2014
300-hour practicum in existing early childhood center or elementary school. This practicum is for public school teachers or early childhood professionals who wish to initiate change in their home settings. These changes will focus on increasing the depth and extent of nature and outdoor time programming occurring in the natural world. Practica sites will be approved by the Education faculty. Practica participants will be visited by Education faculty in person when possible and on-line when practica are geographically distant from the Keene campus.
This will include, where feasible, visits from faculty and regular on-line consultation.