In-Person Sessions

Browse the list of in-person sessions for the 2024 Nature-Based Early Learning Conference

The current, detailed schedule of events, including sessions, for conference registrants is now available in the Swapcard app. Invitations to join the app have been mailed to registered conference attendees.


These sessions will take place in Portland, OR, August 1-2. Most live, in-person sessions are not recorded or shared online. All in-person conference attendees will have complimentary access to the online conference. View the online session list here.

Sessions are subject to change. 


Stories from the Field: Using the Nature-Based Early Childhood Program Assessment and Guidebook

Presenters: Anna Dutke, Heidi Faris, Jenny Hanlon, Sheila Williams Ridge, Megan Gessler

This session will give an overview of how educators and administrators have used the Nature-Based Early Childhood Program Assessment and Guidebook to identify individual and program-wide goals for increasing or strengthening their nature-based learning practices.

A Virginia Case Study - An Intermediary Licensing Solution

Presenter: Stevie Lee

Let's go on a journey! As we travel through time, the group will share in the unconventional story of how Appalachian Forest School gained licensure as a 100% outdoor program. We will revisit disappointing yet humorous challenges while reveling in the ultimate triumphs of this series of events!

How Integrating Nature Play Enhanced Our School's Sustainability

Presenter: Kat Horion

Explore how outdoor play in an urban setting has enhanced our school from the inside out! Learn from our journey as we discovered that placing nature and outdoor play at the center of all that we do supports our workforce and our students, and enhances the sustainability and culture of our school!

Doing the Deep Work: Exploring Another Layer of Inside, Outside, and Beyond

Presenter: Rachel Larimore

The Inside, Outside, and Beyond are learning spaces, but also a metaphor for how people relate to coworkers, children, families, and nature. We’ll discuss how we can do the inner work ourselves, as well as support our team to dig more deeply to show up more fully as educators and teammates.

Embracing the Cold: Supporting Children’s Development and Connection to Nature Through Snow Play

Presenters: Ann Rossmiller, Claire Underwood, Rachel Konerman

Snow: an opportunity or an obstacle? This session offers a reframe to fully utilize the unique affordances of snowy weather. Videos of children’s experiences will guide group discussion surrounding teaching strategies and practical guidance to fully embrace the cold wherever children play.

What’s Happening with Nature-Based Early Learning in Canada and How Does It Compare to the USA?

Presenters: Elizabeth Boileau

Join a team of Canadian researchers to find out about the latest research on nature-based early learning in Canada! In this session, preliminary results from a national 2024 survey study will be shared. Participants will also explore differences and similarities between Canadian and USA programs.

Does Vocabulary Grow in Nature?

Presenters: Hannah Stelley, Julie Ernst

Vocabulary is central to oral language development and critical to early literacy achievement. Learn about a study exploring the effect of nature-based practices on preschoolers' vocabulary, and how a blended approach can make benefits more accessible and equitable.

How Do Preschool Children’s Play Behaviors Compare Between a Forest Setting and a Traditional Playground? A Study of One Class's Experience Across the Two Environments

Presenters: Linda Hestenes, Savannah Searcy 

This session explores findings from an observational study comparing preschool children’s play behaviors (n=16) in a forest environment and a traditional playground.  Using both time sampling and extensive note-taking, we discovered many similarities and differences in children’s playful experiences.

Maneuvering the Loose Parts of Nature Preschool Research

Presenters: Jennifer Gauble, Laura Seger, Kelsey Navin

Can forest days build empathy toward nature? Exploring this question required flexible, creative educators and researchers to navigate challenges, surprises, and puzzling results. Join us to play with the loose parts of our research including questions, techniques, tips, and tools.

Early Childhood Nature Play in NSW, Australia: Sharing Some "Bush Banter"

Presenters: Sue Elliott, Dr. Fran Hughes, Dr. Jo Bird

We report on a research study into early childhood immersive nature play programs (INPPs) in New South Wales, Australia. Based on targeted educator focus groups, we share their insights into challenges and achievements along with evidence-based recommendations for charting our future.

Exploring Culturally Responsive Practices Through the Insights of Black Women Scholars

Presenter: Jessica Hawkins

This session examines the seminal work of Black women scholars who pioneered culturally responsive practices. Using an interactive, think-tank model partnered with deep reflection, participants will build the bridge between cultural responsiveness and nature-based learning.

Strategy to Ensure Early Childhood Needs at the Center of COP 28

Presenter: Lais Fleury

When we talk about the climate crisis, babies, toddlers, and children are not taken into account in the debate nor negotiations. This session is going to share the advocacy strategy to center children's voices and needs at the center of attention of those who make decisions about the climate crisis.

Systems Change Theory to Create Sustainable Change for Nature-Based Learning

Presenter: Anne Adams

Learn systems change theory against the inspiring story of Maine Early Childhood Outdoors and their recent impact. Affecting long-term sustainable change is our goal and the strategy is systems-level thinking and internal reflection.

Roots of Resilience: Empowering Refugee Children in Your Community Through Nature Connection

Presenters: Erica Hermsen

As refugee populations surge across the US, nature-based programs offer hope for mitigating the trauma of displacement. This presentation explores strategies to bolster the inclusion of refugee children in nature-based programs, unveiling proven approaches and inspiring transformative change.

Entre Arboles: Nature-Based Learning in an Urban Setting

Presenter: Raquel Garrido

In this session, learn about Entre Arboles, a collaborative program taking advantage of city green spaces to provide prolonged and frequent interactions with nature for small children. Understand how programs like this can help combat plant blindness and strengthen relationships with nature.

Tales About Tails: Connecting Children in Early Intervention With Nature

Presenter: Sylvia Collazo

"What happens when you pull a lizard's tail?" Hear this and other stories from early intervention specialists on how to incorporate nature-based teaching practices to support young children with developmental delays and disabilities.

Public Policy to Support Early Childhood Nature Connection: What’s Blooming Across the Country

Presenters: Vera Feeny, David Beard

Join us for an interactive session highlighting local partnerships to connect young children to nature more equitably and from a climate resilience lens. We will discuss the future of early childhood nature connection movement building, including local and national challenges and opportunities.

Early Childhood Education for Sustainability in the USA: A Conceptual E-STEM Framework for Climate Resilience

Presenters: Victoria Carr, Ann Rossmiller, Leslie Kochanowski

You are part of the vanguard for promoting children’s environmental learning, agency, and climate change resilience. Learn how ECEfS spirals up nature-based learning by deepening an understanding of the human-nature relationship, integrating E-STEM curricula, and promoting civic participation.

Lasting Change: Honing the Alliance Between Public Schools and Community Partners

Presenters: Vince Case, Jennifer Wimberly, Charlie Ciernia, Monie Corona, Jered Lee, Steven Henley

Discover how teachers navigated the complexities of their district to unite leaders, educators, and Indigenous practitioners to create a unique outdoor learning (OL) experience. Discuss what works within your community as you consider partners and advocates for creating culturally relevant and equitable OL.

Closing the Nature Gap for Our Most Vulnerable Children

Presenters: Erica Palmer, Rhonda Kaiser, Ashley Jones, Anne Stires

Poverty threatens early brain development. In addition to academic inequity, these children face the “nature gap”-- limited access to safe and equitable outdoor experiences. During this workshop, you will learn why and how one school in Maine made the shift toward nature-based early education.

Cultivating Meaningful Partnerships for Equity: A Case Study

Presenters: Erin Cathcart, Sprinavasa Brown

Learn how to level up your partnerships! Using ELSO’s consulting services as a case study, we will consider how community partnerships can be cultivated with an eye for impact through intentional collaborations that equitably share resources, knowledge, and expertise.

Moving from Environmental Racism to Environmental Justice

Presenters: Islah Tauheed, Deja Jones

By creating spaces within classrooms that allow students to engage in conversations around environmental justice we elevate their voices and begin to lay the groundwork for empathy and equity. Join us to gain strategies on instruction that elevate the conversation from environmental racism to environmental justice.

“Everything Comes from Somewhere, and Everything is Going Somewhere When We’re Finished With It:” Cultivating Sustainable Practices Across the Preschool Setting

Presenters: Jacqueline Mooney-O'Brien, Theresa McCaffrey

What are the NAAEE Natural Start Alliance’s Professional Practice Guidelines regarding sustainability? Following an exploration of what sustainability means at Little Leaf Nature Preschools, participants will engage in three rounds of a “World Cafe” and share ideas and new goals through a “Harvest.”

We Contain Multitudes: Using Nature to Promote Multidisciplinary Learning

Presenter: Mo Abdalah

How can you use Mother Nature as a springboard for multidisciplinary learning? Starting with a story of how COVID actually helped make an outdoor preschool a reality, participants will learn, through discussion, how there are many “ins” within nature to different learning subjects, even DEI.

Oregon's Pathway to Licensure

Presenters: Heidi McKay, Rachel Turner, Nicole Fravel, Lynny Brown

We will discuss Oregon's pathway to licensing outdoor preschool programs in the state. First, we will share our lived experience and collective journey. Then, we will take questions and lead a responsive dialogue with attendees.

Teacher Field School: Sharing Our Story

Presenters: Patty Born, Cathy Jordan

The Teacher Field School is Minnesota’s first outdoor school for teachers! Learn how we created a year-round, hands-on, nature-immersed experience for primary grade educators to learn to use nature for multidisciplinary investigations, standards-aligned curriculum, and improved social relationships.

Common Place: A Cross-Cultural Collaboration to Bring Place-Based Education to the Keiki (children) Through the Kumu (teachers)

Presenters: Gemma Nicholl Medina, Aubrey Matsuura

An interdisciplinary approach between Hawaiian Studies & Early Childhood Education utilizing field trips as experiential learning opportunities for pre-service teachers to immerse themselves in culture and place.

Toddlers as Investigators in Nature: Building an Emergent Curriculum with Toddlers in an Urban Forest School Setting

Presenter: Melissa Pinkham

Natural environments provide toddlers with opportunities for building authentic, inquiry-based practices that create enthusiastic, lifelong learners. This workshop will build teacher's understanding of toddlers’ inquiries, creating a curriculum that is meaningful in natural and forest environments.

Growing Nature Stewards: Strategies for Successful Parent-Child Nature Programs

Presenter: Nicole Dravillas-Fravel

Successful parent-child programs reach toddlers at their level and engage parents in creating wonder-filled experiences. Learn how to lead parent participation sessions that balance ecology with developmentally appropriate learning.

Fiesta Forever: Building Community, Recruitment, and Retention in Your Outdoor Program Through Joyful DEI Strategies

Presenter: Pilar Carmina Gonzalez

Learn fun, easy, hands-on strategies for exploring diverse cultures in any setting or community! Programs can use these tools to recruit and retain diverse families and teachers and build social connections. We’ll share our tips, then solicit questions and ideas in a broader discussion.

Deepening Connections: Exploring the Relationship Between Nature and the Arts

Presenter: Rachel Konerman

Nature and the arts each have the potential to augment children's engagement with the other. Join this discussion to share your successes or your struggles, or both, in facilitating nature-based arts experiences, to gain inspiration and strategies, and to inform the research of the facilitator.

All Relatives Share Empathy: Nurturing Teacher and Child Empathy Outdoors

Presenters: Claire Underwood, Mandi Wojciehowski

Join in the flow of knowledge that recognizes all beings as active in a reciprocal empathy cycle. Through storytelling, discussion, and concrete examples, you will leave with robust empathy strategies to embed in your teaching practice: nourishing yourself, the earth, and the children in your care.

A "Recipe" for Building Drop-in Nature Programs

Presenters: Elena Amaya, Nina Avila

Hoyt Arboretum Friends’ education team welcomes participants to learn their recipe for building a successful drop-in nature-based program. Together we will review tools to engage children and caregivers on a variety of scientific concepts and develop your own recipe for your goals and audience.

Take Them Outside: How to Be an Advocate for Outdoor Education in Elementary School

Presenters: Jennifer Martin, Kelly Banik

Are you looking to bring outdoor education to your classroom or advocate for outdoor learning? Hear how we prioritized learning outside and connecting our students to our ecosystem.  We’ll identify obstacles to outdoor learning in elementary school and offer practical solutions and resources.

Stepping Into Risky Play

Presenters: Kelsey Zuiderveen

Risky play is powerful and beneficial to children, but how do you facilitate it in a manageable way? How do you talk to children, and parents, about risky play? How do you decide what to say 'yes' to? In our time together we will explore the what, why, and how of risky play.

Using Multicultural Tools and Strategies in Nature Education

Presenter: Ashley Brailsford

Creating a nature-based curriculum and program that centers the diverse cultural perspectives can be challenging for transforming early childhood spaces into inclusive places. This presentation will provide an overview of multicultural strategies and tools to support teachers and administrators.

Outdoor Play-Based Programs in Europe

Presenter: Debra L. Lawrence

I visited five programs in Scotland and Italy during the International Play Association (IPA) World Conference in Scotland. This session captures pictures of these outdoor programs, all with the philosophy of supporting children's play. Join me as we explore four approaches to nature-based experiences in Europe.

Native American Curriculum for Early Learning: John McCoy (lulilaš) Since Time Immemorial

Presenters: Tleena Ives, WA DCYF Director of Tribal Relations; Wendy Thomas, WA DCYF Tribal Early Learning Liaison

Join Tribal Relations leadership from the WA Department of Children, Youth, and Families in learning about the John McCoy (lulilaš) Since Time Immemorial early learning curriculum, and applying these concepts and practices in nature-based early learning programs.

The Roots of Every Classroom Community: Deep Connections with Families

Presenters: Katie Pollock, Kristen Chandler

Building class communities is one of the most important elements of nature-based education programs. The key to developing this is to partner with families. This session will provide examples of how to build lasting partnerships and how to deepen understanding of unique family needs.

From the Ground Up: Beyond the White Narrative of Young Children and Nature

Presenters: Cathrine Floyd, Liz Beaven, Lynn Turner

Participants are invited to look beyond the historically white dominant cultural narrative surrounding the cultivation of meaningful experiences of nature to advance the important role of nature in addressing historical and current trauma in our children.

Affirming LGBTQ2S+ Individuals and Families in a Nature Preschool Setting

Presenters: Heidi Faris, Alyson Quinn

Educators are invited to explore LGBTQ2S+ inclusion practices in their nature preschool programs. We will brainstorm ways to affirm and celebrate queer identities among staff, students, and families. Participants may bring marketing materials, intake paperwork, and documentation to examine language use.

Death, Decay, and Decomposition: Finding Life and Renewal in Natural Life Cycles

Presenters: Dr. Carla Gull

Death, decay, and decomposition are normal parts of life cycles in the natural world. What lessons, including social emotional skills, are to be learned about, in, with, and for nature when we lean into death, decay, and decomposition in a natural context?

How Nature Teaches Us Anti-Bias and Inclusion

Presenter: Nicole Corbo

Anti-bias is inherently built into nature-based learning when nature is the primary teacher. This session offers educators information, tools, and ideas that will ensure anti-bias education is integrated into all aspects of their programs, from curriculum to community-building.

Wilderness Mental Health First Aid

Presenters: Nicole Roma Thurrell

Mental health events are as common as cuts and broken bones in the field, yet nature-based educators are not offered equivalent training to address mental issues as they have for physical ones. Come build a toolkit to prevent, recognize, and stabilize nervous system dysregulation in the field!

Roots and Wings: Exploring Noyes Rhythm, a Somatic Nature-Based Movement Practice for Everyone and Everybody

Presenter: Patricia Collins

Relax, rejuvenate, and renew a sense of freedom, joy, and play when moving! Noyes Rhythm is an early modern somatic nature-based dance practice that explores techniques like "forest breathing" and improvisational movement, guided by a spoken story narration that includes nature imagery and music.

Nature's Playground: Saying “Yes” to Tree Climbing for Holistic Child Development

Presenter: Rachel Franz

This session will empower educators with the knowledge and skills needed to guide children through tree climbing while fostering holistic development. With examples from licensed programs, you'll come away with new, inclusive ideas for policies that say "yes" to climbing while keeping children safe.

Fostering Connection and Creativity in Nature: Considerations for Time, Space, Materials and Relationships

Presenters: Kirsten Haugen

Nurture children’s creativity and belonging in a nature-rich outdoor classroom by enriching the time, space, materials, and relationships you offer. We’ll learn together through hands-on activities, documentation, reflection, and discussion of field-tested, research-based approaches.

Creating Confident Outdoor Guides

Presenters: Amanda McMickle, Tessa Baden

Nature-based educators know the impact this approach has on their community. However, many are now finding opportunities to tackle the equity issue by connecting with local public schools. Join us in learning how to support the development of confident outdoor guides beyond our nature preschools.