A student participates in a nature-based learning workshop. Photo provided

WESTMINSTER, Vermont – Several local teachers from the Windham Northeast Supervisory Union (WNESU) recently participated in a week-long nature workshop organized by Antioch University’s Early Childhood Education Program in New England.

The new program – Inside-Outside Nature-Based Education – is designed to help young students bounce back from some of the effects caused by Covid-related education cancellations and closures over the past two years.

The workshop trains teachers, administrators and founders of nature preschools and “forest kindergartens”, a movement that has flourished in Europe for thirty years and has recently taken root in the United States, as well as a growing number of nature kindergartens. However, nature preschools and forest kindergartens have a different approach to the curriculum than conventional “indoor” early childhood programs.

The goal of Inside-Outside Nature-Based Education is to make lessons as practical as possible. The goal of each course is for the student to generate a useful product in their work situation, including policy development, program brochures, business plans, grant proposals, and newsletters. ‘information. The program offers content assistance, so founders of new programs will be supported in developing materials to launch their own programs.

The 13-month program offers courses (with credits applicable to a Master of Education program) such as ‘Childhood and Nature’, ‘Ecology of the Imagination’ and ‘Natural History for Early Childhood’. The common goal is to bring students back outside to learn, not just learn about nature.

Since launching the Inside-Outside program in April 2018, they have grown from ten members to over 500 members, including 17 active local chapters spanning from the Northeast to the Midwest.

20 WNESU educators, including teachers, preschoolers, nurses, para-professionals and even two librarians, participated in the program, along with people from several schools in the district.

Ellen Davis, a professor of education at Antioch University in New England, said taking students outside into nature helps both the student and nature, not just by making youngsters more aware of their environment and the natural habitat around them, but simply getting them outside. in itself.

Davis also said a growing number of schools are taking an interest in the program and its philosophies, offering the option of taking courses leading to a certificate of completion or master’s credits. The outdoor elements create a unique way to learn about nature and develop new skills.

WNESU Superintendent Andrew Hass also endorsed the program’s nature-based approach, saying they were excited to form a relationship with Antioch University to participate in the initial week-long program followed. by the 20 local educators. He also said the plan was to participate and expand the program next year. Westminster Center School was the perfect location for this year’s workshop, as ‘Evan’s Woods’, a nearby wooded area open to the public, is close to the school.