Natural Wonder Summit

Check out the 2017 Natural Wonder Summit schedule or photos in New Canaan, CT. 

June 1-3, 2018  REGISTER NOW!
Woodson Branch Nature School
Marshall, North Carolina

About the Summit
The Natural Wonder Summit is a very special gathering. More than straightforward conference, the Summit is an event for nature-based early childhood practitioners who want to recharge and celebrate! Feel the energy and kinship offered by others who have the same goals as you.

Nestled less than an hour from Asheville, the Woodson Branch Nature School is in the beautiful back country of North Carolina. Our summit features sessions for educators working with children ages three through eight years old (preschool - 3rd grade). 

About Our Keynote Presenter

We are delighted to announce that Amy Butler, Director of Education at the North Branch Nature Center, is giving the keynote! Amy is the founder of Vermont's first forest preschool program at NBNC, and she also created a model program Educating Children Outdoors (ECO) for routine outdoor learning in VT public schools. If anyone knows how to facilitate outdoor learning in all seasons, it's Amy! We welcome her and look forward to learning from her experienced perspective.

Keynote Description

Reconnecting to the Natural World: Weaving a Nature Pedagogy into Public Schools 

Amy Butler, North Branch Nature Center, VT 

Amy will share the successes and challenges of getting children outdoors on a weekly basis within the context of a public school system. The ECO program has made a positive and lasting impact on over a dozen public schools in the central Vermont region and has trained and consulted with over 100 teachers through the ECO Institute. ECO encompasses not only science, literacy and math with its standardized lesson plans but it also affords endless opportunities for children to learn how to care for themselves and develop empathy for the living world.  This is the story of how a nature immersion program in public school can guide students to care for themselves, their classmates and the place they call home.

A casual happy hour will take place on Friday at 7 p.m., just perfect for networking with fellow conference-goers. The schedule is packed with hands-on, outdoor workshops from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.; nature preschool visits will take place Sunday morning along with an optional white water rafting trip on the French Broad River!

Workshop Descriptions

Developing a Mindful Forest Program for Young Children
Morgen Yeakley, Woodson Branch Nature School

There were steep hills to climb with beautiful summits and dark, stormy days that usually ended in rainbows. Follow the path we traveled as we discovered how to make nature education accessible to student groups of varied ages and stages. Identify the resources available as you strive to nurture your students' connections with the natural world.

Nature Activities IN Nature for young children
Woodson Branch Nature School
This workshop is set in the woods where Woodson Branch Nature School Teachers provide hands-on learning experiences for teachers about teaching and sharing the natural world with children in groups.  They provide access to tried and true resources that they use every day.  You are sure to leave inspired and equipped to take your classroom outside!

Nature Play and Playwork
Linda Kenny, North Carolina Zoo
This session emphasizes play in nature and how to take advantage of the many affordances provided by the natural world. Participants will look at the value of play and the importance of the adult in support of the playing child.  Join the fun as we explore creative approaches to planning for play and practical applications for playwork in outdoor environments.

Open House Tour
Woodson Branch Nature School opens their doors for a look at their learning environments. Feel free to ask questions and network with others as you learn more about their programs.

Learning from the Farm to the Forest 
Lauren Brown, Asheville Farmstead School
Join the Executive Director of the Asheville Farmstead School to explore how these two ecosystems intersect. to foster a deeper appreciation for nature as a whole, successes and failures over the last two years of operation, and ways that farming and gardening can be incorporated into your centers. We intend for this to be an engaging interactive workshop filled with learning and community building. Asheville Farmstead School, founded in 2016, is a non-profit, play based preschool where our students learn through their interactions with nature, our small farm and garden, and our daily cycle of activities.

Where You Lead We Will Follow: Children as the Protagonists of Curriculum 
Cathy Tuttle and Michelle Tuttle, Estes Children’s Cottage
Inspired by the programs of Reggio Emilia, Italy and developed in the context of our center-in-residence serving toddlers and preschoolers in Chapel Hill, NC we will share stories of how we connect children to the natural world, follow their discoveries and design our curriculum based on their interests. We watch as children grow as explorers, observers, and protagonists of their own learning all while deepening their connection with nature and the surrounding community.

Building the Forest Kindergarten Movement One School at a Time 
Paul Beich, Asheville Forest School

In June 2016 a small group of committed people founded a non-profit called the Forest School Foundation, and a few months later we started our first school, Asheville Forest School. We see the forest kindergarten movement as essential to health of children and our world, and we see our work as helping to build a thriving movement that makes forest kindergarten available to every child. We'll share our story, our successes, our challenges, and our plan to start multiple forest kindergartens in Western North Carolina.

Meaningful Documentation
Monica French, Wild Haven/Baltimore City Recreation and Parks
Many educators are eager to use emergent curriculum approaches, but they struggle with ways to identify and document skill development. Monica French, co-founder of Wild Haven forest immersion programs, shares practical (and beautiful) ways to document children’s growth and make outdoor learning visible.
Awakening a Deep Nature Connection: Exploring the Magic and Mystery of the Natural World 
West Wilmore, Rainbow Community School

In this day and age, an understanding of the human impact on the environment is virtually impossible to ignore. These environmental problems impact our daily lives and will continue to do so for generations. At RCS we believe that environmental stewards are birthed from a learning atmosphere that sees nature as sacred and divine. The culture, climate, and programming at RCS aims to nurture within the formative years of childhood an intimate and empathetic bond with the natural world that will grow over time into meaningful and enduring environmental action. In this workshop we will investigate rituals and activities that help infuse a love, appreciation, and reverence of the natural world.

Wild Edibles, Medicinals, and Plant ID
Natalie Bogwalker, Wild Abundance, NC
Discover some of the many uses of common plants in our region during a hike with Natalie. Feel free to bring your field guide, sketchbook, and questions.

Animals in the Wild
Tori Duval, Western North Carolina Nature Center
Children are often curious about wild animals and it's up to us to help nurture that curiosity! Join me as we learn about our native wildlife, discuss ways to safely interact with wild animals, and head outside to explore like kids.

Wee Naturalists: The Growth and Development of an Early Childhood Program
Michelle Pearce, North Carolina Arboretum
Wee Naturalists is a preschool public program at The NC Arboretum for children ages 2-5 with a parent.
During its twelve years, the program has seen its share of growing pains: How much do we charge? How
many kids can come? Should the program be year-long or seasonal? How many days a week/month do
we offer the program? Is the curriculum really age appropriate? Is it worth the staff time? If you have
asked the same questions about your program or you are thinking about starting a similar program,
find out how we have grown and what we’ve learned!

Sunday Field Trip Excursions
Mountain Breeze is a Neo-humanistic preschool. Neo-Humanist Education (NHE) goes beyond the practice of love for humans and includes all creation including plants, animals, and the inanimate world. Neo-humanist education was founded by the Indian philosopher Shrii P.R. Sharkar. We are located on 50 acres in Madison County and base our days around whole child learning, universal love, nature, yoga, and mediation. Our school is truly a beautiful place to be a child. We spend our days in nature every day. 

Treat yourself to a stay at the Hot Springs Resort and Spa! They have rustic cabins, suites, and camping options...and did we mention the natural hot springs and spa?! The spa service and mineral bath hours run til midnight, so you are sure to have time for some pampering at the end of each day. When you book, tell them you're with the Natural Wonder Summit, as there are some reserved rooms and cabin sharing options available. 

Ready to join us? Register today!

And don't forget to nominate a nature-based teacher you admire for the Wonder Award.  

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

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