Teacher Education Visiting Day | Admissions Event for Prospective Students
Feb 18 @ 11:00 am – 3:00 pm
Experienced Educators Info Session | Admissions Event for Prospective Students
Mar 15 @ 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm
In Bloom in Maine: Promising Practices in Nature-based Early Childhood Education
Mar 26 all-day

Our first 2016 conference, In Bloom: Promising Practices in Nature-based Early Childhood Education will take us north to the Maine coast in early Spring. In mid-May, for the fifth year now, we will convene at Antioch University New England, and in June, for the second time at Shelburne Farms in Vermont.

Save your date for the conference that fits your schedule/location best!

Open a Conference Brochure pdf  here.

Register Here for In Bloom in Maine.

9:00 am Opening Circle

9:15–10:15  Morning Keynote

Why 21st Century Children Need Nature

David Sobel, Antioch University New England

The original kindergarten–the children’s garden–conceived by German educator Friedrich Froebel in the 19th century, was a place where children learned through play, often in nature. That idea is fast eroding. Children aren’t playing in the garden anymore; instead they’re filling in bubbles on worksheets. The new movement of nature-based early childhood education can reverse that trend. There are thousands of forest kindergartens throughout Europe and new programs opening every month in North America. Let’s examine the promise of this healthy approach towards living and learning outdoors with young children.

David Sobel is Senior Faculty in the Department of Education at Antioch University New England. He is the author of the newly released Nature Preschools and Forest Kindergartens: The Handbook for Outdoor Learning. He serves as a professional development and place-based education curriculum consultant to schools throughout the country and has been a guest speaker and workshop leader for a variety of school and environmental organizations.


Morning Workshops:

Cooking and Eating Outdoors with Children, Martha Coombs, Seacoast Waldorf School

In this workshop you will learn four easy kid friendly foods to cook over an open fire in your outdoor classroom. (I am not talking about s’mores!) While the teachers tend the fire, the children can build the fire, gather wood, saw wood and prep the food. My kindergarten ate outdoors until just before Thanksgiving break and we intend to continue cooking out all  year! If we have the weather, we will continue to eat out!

I use simple pots, pans and utensils that can be purchased at any department store, outdoor store, or thrift store! We will talk about different fire pit set ups, permits, and ways to ensure safety. Wear your outdoor work clothes for this hands on experience!

Forest Classrooms in a Modern World, Dawn Jenkins, Eyes of the World Discovery Center

In a world of testing, objectives, and social media, how can “playing in the woods” fit in and prepare children for public Kindergarten. In this workshop you will learn how to integrate Kindergarten-ready skills into a child-led outdoor program. You will also learn how to use facebook as a powerful and fun way to communicate with parents and keep them fully engaged with your program.

The Yucky and the Dangerous: Risk Management in Nature-based Early Childhood, Anne Stires, Juniper Hill School

Poisin Ivy + Berries + Mushrooms + Feathers + Bones + Slush + Dead Animals + Mud + Ticks + Water + Trees = Excited Children & Nervous Parents!

As soon as children enter the natural world, whether as classroom or play space, they discover and explore. They are sure to come across biting insects, poisonous berries, dead animals, mud and all the exciting loose parts that make up their world. Our job, as guides and educators, is to help support their development by allowing for safe and appropriate explorations of these materials. Children are naturally drawn to what is yucky and dangerous because they need to make sense of their world.

As the adults in their lives, we have a choice: to make them fearful and worried, or to increase their knowledge base through play first and information next. The latter increases children’s confidence and resilience. Explore the “Yucky and the Dangerous” with hands-on outdoor activities for children and through role playing conversations with parents.

Defining Integrity and Stewardship in Nature Alongside Young Children, Julie Perkins and Aja Stephan, The Friends School of Portland

In daily adventures in the woods, we find ourselves grappling with the disconnect between freedom of forest play and teaching respect and preservation of the natural environment. We’ve invited our community to problem solve some of our queries. Through small group discourse, role playing, and brainstorming, we will attempt to unpack some of the important questions that have come up for us during this work, such as . . .

How do we create a framework that both supports and balances children’s exploration, discovery, and magical play while integrating the ideas of Leave No Trace, environmental integrity, and teach respect for all living things?

How do you cultivate a culture of stewardship for the wilderness both in keeping it wild and user-friendly?

The Magic and Mysticism of Fairy Houses

Kelly Averill, Bowdoin College Children’s Center

Come enter the whimsical world of fairies! Fairy houses are a way to bring magic and mysticism into the natural world. There’s so much more to the lore than just building. Learn how to create the atmosphere for capturing the imagination of young children and enticing them to want to build these elaborate houses. Take part in a variety of seasonal songs and verses that introduce the fairies that inhabit the woods. Watch the fairies come to life through an oral story. Learn how to create beautiful invitations in the outdoors for young children to build these little wonders. Discussion on the value of fairy houses, and how to make the enchantment happen at your center, encouraged!

Lunch Hour

Story and Tour of Eyes of the World Discovery Center

Ramble some of the 27 acres of forest and outdoor, indoor and secret classrooms of Eyes of the World Discovery Center. Led by Dawn Jenkins, Director.

Afternoon Keynote:

Following Chipmunks and Feeding the Fire: How Nature-based Curriculum Unfolds

Ellen Doris, Antioch University New England and
 Anne Stires, Juniper Hill School for Place-based Education

Ellen Doris is a faculty member in the Department of Education at Antioch University New England. Ellen has served as an early childhood and elementary teacher and administrator, consultant, museum, and outdoor educator. Her books include Doing What Scientists Do,  for teachers, and Life at the Top: Discoveries in a Tropical Forest Canopy,  for children.

Anne Stires is the founder, director, and lead teacher of Juniper Hill School in Alna, Maine. She has worked with AUNE on the In Bloom conferences since their beginnings, and serves as an adjunct faculty with the Nature-based Early Childhood Certificate Program. Se is a contributing author to Nature Preschools and Forest Kindergartens: The Handbook for Outdoor Learning.

Afternoon Workshops:

Animal Forms: Movement and Pretend Play, Debbie Lyons, Merrohawke Nature School

Let’s go outside and play! We’ll be on the move during this entirely outdoors workshop as we explore imaginative play by way of animal forms. As a core routine of nature connection, embodying animal forms deepens our connection to nature by building naturalist and tracking skills. Through games, stories, and conversation, we’ll model and scaffold age-appropriate ways to utilize animal forms to keep kids warm in cold weather without a fire, while firing up within them a meaningful connection to the outdoors.

One Day, Every Week, All Year, Outdoors:  Eliza Minnucci & Meg Teachout, Ottaquechee School

Eliza and Meg will take you through a sample day in their public school Forest Kindergarten program. Learn the rhythms and routines they’ve developed to provide students with teacher directed and independent exploration time in a wild space. Participate in outdoor science, math, and literacy activities and have a chance to learn how you too might implement a one-day-per-week Forest program in your school. We’ll spend the session outdoors, just as we do with our students. We’ll also make time to describe how we fund our program and to answer your questions about getting started in your educational setting. Bring your enthusiasm for the outdoors and clothing appropriate for the weather.

Adventures/Literacy in the Forest, Jessica Labbe, Eyes of the World Discovery Center

Take an adventure and see Kittery’s own Roger’s Park through the eyes of the child. Learn about implementing a child-led curriculum that includes building literacy and language skills in the outdoor setting. On this adventure we will build a connection between nurturing a child’s self awareness and autonomy with other important life skills. Jessica will discuss how to create a peaceful and nurturing learning environment in an outdoor setting while enriching play with literacy and language development for young children. As we will be hiking and involved in some adventure play, please be sure to bring weather appropriate clothing and footwear.

Math All Around Us, Karen First and Leah Robbins, Ipswich River Nature Preschool

The outdoors is rich with opportunities to explore numbers, spatial relationships, shapes, patterns and measurement. Participants will use math to deepen their observation skills on a nature walk. We’ll play outdoor math games and use natural materials to “mess about” with math concepts. Connections between math, literacy, and science happen naturally in thoughtful early childhood programs. How can we use the outdoors to strengthen these connections? Teachers from Ipswich River Nature Preschool will share learning stories of how their natural areas provoke math talk and expand mathematical thinking for young children.

Bringing Nature Home, Kim Sanders, Maine Audubon

In every schoolyard and garden lies rich opportunity for children to build understanding and connections around how wildlife is affected by seasonal changes. This workshop will introduce and demonstrate ways to build children’s scientific knowledge around observable relationships and patterns in the natural world, with an emphasis on the basic needs of all living things. We will engage in the scientific process ourselves as we explore the life cycles and food chains immediately around us. Specifics include how and what to plant to attract native insects, birds, and other wildlife to your chosen site, and what kinds of ongoing activities can sustain this discovery and development.

3:50 – 4:00 Closing Circle


Questions about the conferences should be directed to Peg Smeltz, 603-283-2301,

Waldorf Teacher Education Visiting Day | Admissions Event for Prospective Students
Apr 8 @ 10:00 am – 3:00 pm


Spend the day meeting with faculty, talking with students, visiting classes, and touring the campus.

Teacher Education Visiting Day | Admissions Event for Prospective Students
Apr 15 @ 12:00 pm – 3:00 pm
In Bloom in Keene: Promising Practices in Nature-based Early Childhood Education
May 12 all-day

In Bloom in Keene: Promising Practices in Nature-based Early Childhood Education

Thursday, May 12, 2016

9:00 am – 4:00 pm


Please join us for our fifth In Bloom in Keene: Promising Practices in Nature-based Early Childhood Education conference! If you’re busy on May 12, there are two additional In Bloom conferences in New England this Spring. We will be gathering with a number of innovative Maine early childhood educators in Kittery on Saturday, March 26 for our first conference at the Eyes of the World Discovery Center. And our second In Bloom in Vermont conference will convene exemplary early childhood educators from downtown to down on the farm at Shelburne Farms on Monday, June 13. Then spread the word to your West Coast friends to keep their eyes open for In Bloom in Santa Barbara in October. Each conference will feature unique nationally recognized keynote speakers and workshops by local practitioners. All events will focus on the educational and health benefits of being in the natural world with children.

Open a Conference Brochure pdf  here.

Register Here for In Bloom in Keene.

9:00 am Opening Circle

9:15–10:15  Morning Keynote

Balanced and Barefoot: Why Outdoor Play is Important

Angela Hanscom, TimberNook Inc.

As we continue to decrease children’s time and space to move and play outdoors, we see a simultaneous rise in the number of children presenting with sensory and motor deficits. Classroom teachers note more and more children having trouble with attention: kids fall out of their seats, move clumsily, and act aggressive during playground games. How can we reverse this alarming trend of sensory and motor issues in children? How can we ensure that children are fully engaging their bodies, minds and all of their senses?
Using the same philosophy that lies at the heart of her popular TimberNook program—that nature is the ultimate sensory experience, and that psychological and physical health improves for children when they spend time outside on a regular basis—Angela Hanscom offers strategies to help children thrive in outdoor environments using a therapeutic approach to outdoor play.
Angela Hanscom is a pediatric therapist and the founder of
TimberNook, an internationally recognized program in the United States and New Zealand. She frequently contributes to the Washington Post about the importance of outdoor play and movement, and her new book, Balanced & Barefoot: How Unrestricted Outdoor Play Makes for Strong, Confident, and Capable Children, will soon be published by New Harbinger.

Morning Workshops:

  • Integrating the School Garden into Your Curriculum
    Jenny Ettelson Coy, The Common School, Amherst, Massachusetts
  • Children Who Challenge Us, Liza Lowe, Wild Roots Nature School at Stonewall Farm, Keene, New Hampshire
  • Caterpillars All Around, Sam Jaffe and Liz Kautz, The Caterpillar Lab, Keene, New Hampshire
  • Stick Play: The Power of Imagination, Anne Stires, Juniper Hill School for Place-based Education, Alna, Maine
  • Art In Nature, Jenn Murphy, New Hingham Regional Elementary School, Chesterfield, Massachusetts


Wild Roots Nature School at Stonewall Farm

Sophia’s Hearth Family Center

The Harris Center for Conservation Education

George B. Storer Foundation

In Bloom in Vermont: Promising Practices in Nature-based Early Childhood Education
Jun 13 all-day
Critical Skills Institute-Northeast Kingdom
Aug 8 @ 8:00 am – Aug 12 @ 4:00 pm


For Teachers in northern Vermont and northern New Hampshire

This Summer open-enrollment Critical Skills Institute will meet on the following dates:
Monday, August 8 – Friday August 12, 2016
from 8:00am-4:00pm.

A certificate for professional development hours will be provided. Participants may choose to take this weeklong institute for graduate credit for an additional registration fee of $350.

Group discounts are available for 4 or more teachers from the same district.

This course will be held at The Barn at Riverside, 30 Lily Pond Road, Lyndonville, Vermont.

Visit these website links for more information on the Critical Skills Program.

The Critical Skills Classroom
A Critical Skills Institute

Individual Registration–$700 each
Group Rate-for a team of four teachers from the same district–$650 each
Staff at Riverside Academy–$625 each

For more news and events, visit the AUNE News page and the AUNE Event Calendar.