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Our 1-day Summit on Connecting to Nature in an Urban World, April 19, features a morning plenary and roundtable sessions followed by interactive workshops and walkshops in the afternoon. Building on the Summit is our Conference, April 20-21, featuring keynotes speakers, hands-on workshops and networking opportunities.

Please note: Schedules are now locked from being changed. If you would like to make changes to your schedule, please come see us at the registration desk. See you in Vancouver!

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Track 5: Learning Outside: Nature-based strategies for advancing education in all communities [clear filter]
Thursday, April 20

9:45am PDT

Diapers In the Forest: Fostering Learning Skills for Success Beginning In the Early Years
Limited Capacity filling up

Forest schools for toddlers as a fertile ground for developing learning skills such as grit, curiosity and self-regulation.

Academic skills are being taught to increasingly younger students. The current educational climate, which stresses the importance of rigorous learning in the preschool years in a traditional indoor setting, is impacting the mental, physical, and emotional health of the young child, while impeding the role of nature in children’s lives.

Educators from Raintree School believe in the critical role of forest schools and wild play in promoting academic achievement, and advocate for the importance of forest school, beginning in nursery, to foster learning skills that author Paul Tough calls noncognitive or “soft” skills. Skills such as grit, curiosity, and self-regulation, which are strongly cultivated during nature play, are gaining prominence as indicators fundamental for success. Recent research in neuroscience detailing the plasticity of toddler brains supports the high value of rich, sensory nature play in creating an environment that best supports learning success in young children.

avatar for Genevieve Ploch

Genevieve Ploch

Forest School Early Childhood Educator, Raintree School
Genevieve Ploch spent her childhood playing in creeks, trekking through the forest, and building snow forts during Midwestern winters. This love of nature is now shared with young children as an educator at Raintree School, a Reggio-Inspired Forest School in St. Louis, Missouri. Having... Read More →

Jenn Thrasher

Early Childhood Educator, Raintree School


Thursday April 20, 2017 9:45am - 11:00am PDT
Mackenzie (Ground Floor)

11:15am PDT

Get Outside and Play San Antonio!
Limited Capacity seats available

In 2011, a blue ribbon taskforce was convened by former San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro to identify the most effective method for improving the quality of education in San Antonio. In 2012, residents of San Antonio voted “yes” to the development of a program focused on delivering high-quality education to 22,400 Pre-Kindergarten four-year-old children that includes outdoor learning as a crucial component. This session will take participants through the journey of promoting the importance of the natural environment in the daily experiences of children, creating a nature movement in the community. Important features of the program include creating replicable, low-cost outdoor learning environments, and offering curriculum and professional learning opportunities for educators and community members. Participants will learn how four early childhood urban schools have extended their classrooms into the outdoor learning environment, while connecting children and their families to nature. In addition, participants will learn how to inspire and design experiential learning opportunities for educators to implement in schools.

avatar for Dr. Lesley Balido-McClellan

Dr. Lesley Balido-McClellan

Assistant Director of Research and Innovation, City of San Antonio/Pre-K 4 SA
Lesley Balido McClellan is an educational leader specializing in research and innovation to promote a holistic approach to the healthy development of the mind, body and spirit of all children in order to close achievement gaps in social-emotional well-being and academics. McClellan... Read More →
avatar for Adriana Becerra

Adriana Becerra

Assistant Director, City of San Antonio/Pre-K 4 SA
Adriana Becerra is a bilingual educational leader specializing in developing start ups into high quality programs through strategic planning, professional learning, research and innovation. She has a Masters Degree in Early Childhood Education, 11 years of experience in the field... Read More →

Sandy Weser

Director, City of San Antonio/Pre-K 4 SA
Sandy Weser is an educational leader specializing in working with preschool children. She has a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education and 30 years of experience working with young children in both private and public schools in the San Antonio community. Weser was part of... Read More →


Thursday April 20, 2017 11:15am - 12:30pm PDT
Mackenzie (Ground Floor)

2:45pm PDT

Success Stories from the Field: Innovative Programs Across the Ages
Limited Capacity filling up

Education has a critical role to play in helping children develop a positive environmental identity and promote an environmentally-responsible way of relating to the natural world. Educators in formal and nonformal settings are finding unique and effective ways to provide rich, outdoor place-based learning opportunities for children of all ages. This panel of speakers will share their insights and experiences on how they successfully addressed barriers and challenges they faced in planning and implementing programs and initiatives connecting children with nature.

avatar for Bill Kilburn

Bill Kilburn

Program Manager, Back to Nature Network
Bill Kilburn is the leader of the Back to Nature Network, Ontario’s provincial organization representing the international children and nature movement. Among achievements, Bill co-chaired the creation of the Ontario Children’s Outdoor Charter with Ontario’s provincial government... Read More →


Lisa Frey

Principal, Departure Bay Eco-School

Dolf De Jong

General Manager, Vancouver Aquarium
avatar for Sheila Williams Ridge

Sheila Williams Ridge

Director, University of Minnesota Lab School
avatar for Ruth Wilson

Ruth Wilson

Curator, Research Library, Children & Nature Network
Ruth Wilson, PhD has been an educator and teacher educator for over thirty years and has devoted most of her career to connecting young children with nature. She currently works as curator for the Children & Nature Network Research Library, an online resource of scientific literature... Read More →


Thursday April 20, 2017 2:45pm - 4:00pm PDT
Bayshore Grand Ballroom