New and Notable 2020 Conference Sessions

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One of the biggest benefits of a virtual conference is the ability to return to sessions time and again, wherever and whenever you want. Using feedback from conference attendees, we pulled together a list of conference highlights in vital themes like equity and inclusion, safety, mental health, and STEAM. We also added new sessions that we know you’ll love, generously shared with us from the NAAEE Virtual Conference

These sessions have passed the test of nature-based early childhood professionals from around the world, so dive in and take advantage of this high-quality professional development, available at the click of a button. 

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Just Added! 

Did you know that Natural Start’s parent organization, the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) also had a virtual conference in 2020? We mined their list for the best early childhood sessions and added them to our platform, making them accessible to anyone registered for NatStart2020!

Gendered Matters in Nature-Based Education  (Poster)

Presenters: Abigail Decker and Scott Morrison, Elon University

Nature Play for Desert Dwellers: Designing Learning Spaces Amid Cactus  

Presenter: Melissa Mundt, Garden PlaySpace

Involving Important Adults in Early Childhood Environmental Education Programs  

Presenter: Jessica Blaire, Wildlife Conservation Society

Spiritual Development, Nature, and Play: Pedagogy for a Healthier World  

Presenter: Deborah Schein, Growing Wonder

Teaching Empathy Through Nature: Creating Social and Emotional Connections  

Presenters: Anne Henderson, Christopher Hill, Ashley Schorr, and Josephine Story, Pine Jog Environmental Education Center

Incorporating Yoga and Mindfulness in EE Programs for All Ages  

Presenter: Alison Zak, The Clifton Institute 

Justice, Equity, Inclusion, and Anti-Bias

Equity and diversity were central themes at our 2020 conference, starting with our keynote address and weaving through discussions, featured sessions, and sessions offered on-demand. Browse top-rated equity-focused sessions below. 

Keynote: Diversifying Your Outdoor Experience 

Presenters: Michelle Martin and J. Elizabeth Mills

George Washington Carver and the Nature Study Movement and Its Relevance Today

Presenter: Jim Embry

Starting the Conversation: Anti-Racist Early Childhood Education in the Outdoors

Presenter: Lindie Keaton

Plenary: Outdoor Preschool for All 

Presenters: Kit Harrington, Lynny Brown, Megan Patterson, Aliza Yair

Equity and Inclusion in Outdoor Learning with Diverse Communities 

Presenter:  Jill Shashaty

Planting Seeds of Social Change Through Nature-Based Learning 

Presenter: Cheryl Ryan

Here’s to You! Puppet Plays, Nature, and Anti-Bias Education  

Presenters: Julia Robinson, Ashley Kramer, Margaret (Tad) Liechty

Mental Health & Mindfulness

While navigating uncertain times, the mental health of staff and students has become increasingly important. The following sessions are highly regarded and focus on mindfulness and mental health.

A Compassionate Approach to Conflict Resolution in Nature Education

Presenters: Takako Kono and Yinan Lu

Therapeutic Benefits of Nature 

Presenter: Jenny Hanlon

Attitude of Gratitude 

Presenter: Rebecca Maglischo

Bees Attacking, Mouse Nest Finds, Snakes Inside: Undergrads' Fears Conquered Through Mindfulness 

Presenters: Katie Pollock, Laura Morris

Improving Program Quality Through Mindfulness  (Download only)

Presenter: Ellen Hamilton-Ford


Though there is no replacement for in-person safety training, these sessions cover important topics related to risk-taking and safety policies and lay the foundation for additional training. 

Safety and Healthy Risk-Taking in Nature-Based Education: Part 1

Presenters: Amy Butler, Anne M Stires

Safety and Healthy Risk-Taking in Nature-Based Education: Part 2

Presenters: Amy Butler, Anne M Stires

Empowering Children Through Risky Play

Presenter: Heidi Reed

Fire Pit Safety for Outdoor Early Educators

Presenters: Lee and Jason Hamzy 

Resilience Planning: A Story of How We Prepared for the Worst So We Can Enjoy the Rest 

Presenter: Rebecca P Hackett-Levy

Risk and the Image of the Child

Presenters: Amanda Crawford, Christina Davis


These sessions provide guidance on how to incorporate science, technology, engineering, art, and math concepts in early childhood outdoor education. 

Animal Architects: Using Nature's Builders to Teach STEAM 

Presenter: Julie Travaglini

"Scientists Don’t Say 'Ew!'": Helping Young Children Explore Plants, Animals, and Insects That Are Overlooked, Undesirable, or Otherwise "Gross" 

Presenter: Leigh Ann Fish

Storytelling, STEM, and Simple Machines in Outdoor Classrooms 

Presenter: Carla Gull

Nature Art: Awaken, Nourish and Create Outdoors

Presenter: Victoria Hackett