Natural Wonder Summit

April 13-15, 2018
Woodson Branch Nature School
Marshall, NC

See the 2017 recap on our blog.

April 1-2, 2017
New Canaan Nature Center Preschool 
New Canaan, CT

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.

A local "nature happy hour" will take place on Friday at 7 p.m. - great for networking before a full day of workshops. Our Saturday schedule is packed with hands-on, outdoor workshops from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., including a mindfulness hike. 
Acclaimed keynote speaker Ken Finch will explore the benefits of Risky Play during an insightful morning presentation. An optional excursion to the Westbroook Nature School in West Redding, CT follows on Sunday from 10-12 p.m. 


Mindfulness Hike   |   New Canaan Nature Preschool team   |   9-9:45 a.m.
Get oriented to the grounds and centered for a day of nature-based learning. The NCNP team fosters a spirit of reflection, exploration and observation. Bring a camera and journal.

The Value of Risky Play   |   
Ken Finch, keynote presenter   |  10-11 a.m.

Nature play is solidly rooted in both research and emotion, and the nature play movement is growing rapidly in the United States.  However significant challenges remain, including the vexing fears of injuries and other risks.  Are young children in any significant danger when they are enjoying free play in natural areas?  How do these perceived dangers compare to other risks of daily life? 
How can we lessen the risks and increase the benefits of nature play in early childhood settings?

Veteran environmental educator Ken Finch will guide thoughtful consideration of the wide-ranging benefits and possible dangers of nature play.  We’ll share statistics, stories, grins, and occasional groans – all in the name of reconnecting children with nature!

Saying Yes! To Children in Nature   |   Audubon Nature Preschool, MD   |   11-12 p.m.
Too often parents or teachers are hesitant to take learning outside. Discover strategies and activities that are surefire ways everyone can say yes! to taking children outdoors. 

Greeting the Day   |   New Canaan Nature Preschool team   |   11-12 p.m. or 1-2 p.m.

Gentle routines set the tone for daily exploration with children at the New Canaan Nature Preschool. Come join our outdoor morning circle by the fire! Please dress for the weather, just like our little ones!

Lunch & Open House Tour   |   New Canaan Nature Preschool   |   12-1 p.m.
Tour the learning environment both indoors and out at the New Canaan Nature Preschool during a causal lunch.

Igniting the Passion   |   Schuylkill Center for Environmental Ed., PA   |   1-2 p.m. or 2:15-3:15 p.m.

One of the primary goals of an early childhood educator is to help young children find their own voice. Discover ways that nature-based learning can connect children's natural interests with authentic moments of self-discovery. Together, we will participate in activities that model how to capture moments of fascination and curiosity and transform them into meaningful educational experiences.

Forest Games   |   Riverside Rhymes Nature Play School, NJ   |   2:15-3:15 p.m. 
Jessica Clayton, NJ certified teacher,  family childcare provider, and moderator for the Nature Preschool Ideas and Community group on Facebook will guide you through various forest games. Inspired by the Coyote's Guide to Mentoring, these games teach children interesting facts about animals, improve gross motor skills, encourage quiet observation in the forest, and nurture joyful learning in the natural world.  Gamecan be modified for any environment and offer ideas to bring back to any outdoor setting. Since we will play the games ourselves, be prepared to get active, make friends and have fun! 

Keeping the Wonder Alive   |   Monica Wiedel-Lubinski, closing plenary   |   3:30-4:30 p.m.  
Longtime educator and executive director of the Eastern Region Association of Forest and Nature Schools (ERAFANS) shares research and insight about how to keep the wonder of nature alive for young children. Question-asking and discussion is encouraged as we discuss challenges and strategies to meet the needs of staff, children and families in nature-based programs.

Campfire Dinner & Networking   |   4:30-6 p.m.
Gather 'round the fire for dinner, drinks and wonderful company. This is the perfect way to conclude an inspiring day! Be sure to leave your survey with us before you depart.


Nature-based Activities   |   Westbrook Nature School   |   10-12 p.m. 

Enjoy a rare glimpse of the Westbrook Nature School in nearby West Redding, CT. We will trek outdoors to learn games and activities that help young children explore nature. Please dress for the weather!

Light breakfast, lunch and dinner around the campfire are included on Saturday. Please bring your own canteen for drinks. You can indicate dietary restrictions when you register. Snacks will be provided during the tour at Westbrook Nature School from 10-12 p.m.


Camping is offered at the New Canaan Nature Center but you must bring your own tent and agree to their common sense camping agreement. A block of rooms is reserved the Hilton Garden Inn Norwalk (560 Main Avenue, Norwalk CT) at the special rate of $99 per night.  Reservations may be made by calling the hotel directly at 203-523-4000 or toll free at 1-877-STAY-HGI (1-877-782-9444) and mentioning the group code "NWS". Discount only available until March 13 (they extended this for us!). They have a shuttle service that can bring you to our event.

Ready to join us? Register Now!

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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