Outdoors for All
Outdoors for All is an innovative initiative designed to match children’s natural curiosity with a nature-based educational experiences and provide their teachers with the skills, tools and confidence to use the outdoor space as a classroom.
Outdoors for All offers 10 early childhood educators in public school systems (preK-2) with in-depth on-site mentoring, professional development, and resources. Key activities of the project include:
- Offering school on-site assessments for outdoor learning environments.
- Creating nature-based early childhood professional development experiences.
- Providing on-site mentoring for new curriculum in (and out) of the classroom.
- Connecting a growing cohort of early childhood educators via Google Classroom.
As a result of participation, teachers in the cohort will expand their network of colleagues, gain access to valuable resources and insight, share challenges and best practices with other educators, develop curriculum, and receive on-going technical assistance from Hitchcock staff.
- Free consultation to identify outdoor learning opportunities and develop curriculum for your own schoolyard
- A free on-site outdoor learning session
- Support and resource-sharing from an online community of educators in our region
- Free professional development opportunities through the Hitchcock Center
- Free books:
- Nature Play at Home: Creating Outdoor Spaces that Connect Children to the Natural World by Nancy Striniste
- Small Wonders, Nature Education for Young Children by Linda Garrett and Hannah Thomas.
- Tuesday, March 3, 2020: Nancy Striniste Lecture, 4-6pm
- Saturday, May 16, 2020: In Bloom Conference, 8am-4pm
- Two school visits during the months of April-June to be scheduled in collaboration with teachers.
Our philosophy is that nature-based education, inherently steeped in science, can happen anywhere, at any place, and at any time. Nature-based early childhood education is highly effective in promoting early STEAM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) where learning experiences occur in the context of nature. Hitchcock Center educators will work with a group of ten early childhood public educators (grades preK-2) to enhance their practice and use of their school grounds for increased hands-on nature-based learning and play for their classrooms and schools.
Goal 1: To engage students and classroom teachers in a school nature assessment and support teachers to develop site-specific outdoor curriculum.
Creating natural play and learning opportunities is an effective part of the solution to increasing the amount of time children spend in the great outdoors for the health of their minds, bodies, and spirits. A Hitchcock Center educator will work directly with each teacher to conduct an assessment of their school grounds to model curricula for outdoor nature connections for their classroom.
- Assess: Hitchcock educators will go to the school site to conduct a nature inventory of the school grounds and identify interesting features and habitat. For example: Is there a creek, a pond, old trees, a naturalized open space, a garden? Even an asphalt play area or concrete sidewalk can offer a tremendous amount of wildlife to discover and teach from.
- Mentor: Our one-on-one mentoring will include surveying the teachers to find out how they perceive outdoor education and what barriers keep them from engaging their students in more hands-on outdoor learning activities and inquiry investigations. This personalized support will focus on addressing the biggest challenges for each of the teachers and developing a plan to address these barriers. We will support teachers to identify priority activities and develop out-of-the-box lesson plans.
- Model: Hitchcock educators will go into the classroom for a 45 minute lesson to model curriculum implementation, allowing the classroom teachers to observe and participate in new and innovative ways to engage their students and use their school grounds as a rich teaching resource. This classroom lesson will demonstrate developmentally appropriate areas to stimulate curiosity, gross motor skills, habitat and wildlife observation, and multisensory learning.
As a result, teachers will observe our educators in action which will increase their awareness of how to use their school grounds for curricular implementation. Students will learn skills to find nature in unexpected places.
Goal 2: Provide free opportunities for high-quality professional development through Hitchcock Center events.
- Nancy Striniste Lecture, March 3, 2020: Teachers will attend a free lecture offered by Nancy Striniste at the Hitchcock Center. Nancy Striniste, founder and principal designer at EarlySpace, is a landscape designer, an educator, and an author. With a unique background in both child development and design, Nancy has been creating spaces for children for more than three decades. Nancy is the author of Nature Play at Home: Creating Outdoor Spaces that Connect Children to the Natural World. All participating teachers will receive a free copy of this book as inspiration to continue developing their school sites for outdoor experiential learning. To build connections between our Small Wonders 2019 cohort and the Outdoors for All 2020 cohort, we will host both for an informal pre-lecture reception to meet one another, share ideas and make face-to-face connections.
- In Bloom Conference, May 16, 2020: All participating teachers in the Outdoors for All cohort will be given fee waivers for the second annual Western Massachusetts In Bloom Conference to be held at the Hitchcock Center. Described as “excellent teaching by modeling” and “a day full of learning, connecting, community building, magic, nature experiences, inspiration and fun!”, this conference, held in partnership with Antioch College, will bring together a diverse array of early childhood professionals, higher education faculty, environmental educators, mindfulness practitioners, and naturalists to focus on the educational and health benefits of being in the natural world with children.
As a result of participation, teachers in the cohort will increase their confidence and competence in delivering high-quality nature-based lessons for their students. They will discover creative, hands-on, and meaningful ways to engage children in nature-based learning experiences, and understand how increased outdoor learning time can align with educational standards.
Goal 3: Support a regional cadre of educators who share resources and engage each other as peer advisors.
Hitchcock educators support a growing network of teachers including the Small Wonders 2019 cohort. We will facilitate on-line and in-person meetings so that participants will have an opportunity to share challenges and successes while building a supportive network.
- Online Google Classroom: Teachers in the Outdoors for All cohort will join the Small Wonders educators using a virtual classroom as a tool to network, share materials and incubate ideas. Hitchcock staff will facilitate discussion among cohort members. This staff moderated space will provide a forum for members to share resources and provide information about nature education, best practices, and provide technical assistance.
- Teachers will also receive a free copy of Small Wonders, Nature Education for Young Children by Linda Garrett and Hannah Thomas and Nature Play At Home by Nancy Stiniste.