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CHESAPEAKE NATURE PLAY & LEARNING CONFERENCE

Thurs.-Friday, October 22-23, 2020 

Brookside GARDENS, Wheaton, MD 

About the Chesapeake Nature Play & Learning Conference    

Discover a range of outdoor learning environments and approaches to natural play space design during this one-of-a-kind event at Brookside Gardens! Thursday features an inspiring keynote by renowned UK-based author and educator, Jan White, founder of Every Child Outdoors (ECO). Thursday is full of engaging workshops that highlight ways to take learning outdoors. If you are searching for ideas for your program's nature play space, or you'd like more information about the benefits of nature play, this conference offers examples from the Chesapeake region!

Light breakfast and lunch are included, on Thursday but bring your canteen for drinks. If you join us for Friday excursions, please pack a bag lunch. ERAFANS will provide a professional development certificate at the conclusion of the event (pending CEU approval). Please dress for the weather, as at least 50% of this event will take place outdoors, and don't forget your canteen! 

This is event is co-sponsored by the wonderful partners of the Maryland Nature Play Space Working Group:




Keynote: Beyond Connecting: Constructing 'Ecological Identity' Through Play in Nature
Jan White, Director of Every Child Outdoors (ECO), United Kingdom


How can an attachment to the natural world begin in early childhood; what makes a young child feel deeply that they are part of nature and that it is part of them; where does the desire to care for and protect our natural environment actually come from, and how can nature care for the child? 

Drawing on theories of early childhood attachment and biophilia, together with the ideas of investigators such as Appleton (1975), Kellert (1997), Sobel (2008), and Pelo (2014), we explore and interpret observations of young children’s play outdoors in terms of the formation of bonding, identity and kinship with the natural world. This enquiry works towards understanding children's deep psychological needs and the play drives that arise from these - to which nature can be the right 'responder'.  Meeting such profound needs is critical for every child to feel fully 'at home' in their early childhood care setting; so raising this awareness can help educators to provide the environments, encounters and interactions that fully value and include every child, every day, throughout their childhood.  

Along with providing a physiological/psychological model for the process of nurturing an ‘ecological identity’ for each child, we can also generate a relevant framework for developing really effective nature-based environments and their affordances for young children’s play.  Here, we focus upon both studying play and early childhood education and care environments, and on supporting the development of understanding and practice in each of these areas. This presentation will introduce a developing play-based framework that aims to scaffold the construction of ‘ecological identity’ as part of very young children’s emerging sense of self.  I hope to open a debate, inviting questions, comments and further ideas.

Read Jan White's bio to discover her amazing work in the United Kingdom! For more information, visit Early Childhood Outdoors (ECO) or find her books at Muddy Faces Forest School and Outdoor Learning.

Schedule of Workshops

Thursday, October 22, 2020
Day 1: Brookside Gardens


8:30-9 a.m. Breakfast and registration
9-9:30 a.m.  Opening remarks and guest speaker
9:30-10:30 a.m. Keynote speaker: Professor Jan White
10:45-12 p.m. Morning workshops
12-1 p.m. Lunch
1-2:30 p.m. Afternoon workshops
2:30-3:30 p.m. Networking activities
3:30-4 p.m. Closing gathering

Friday, October 23, 2020
Day 2: Nature Play Space tours (choose from Baltimore or Northern VA tours)


Save the date! Workshop descriptions coming soon!

Learn more about our payment and refund policies here. Thank you for joining us.

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