Screen Shot 2013-11-19 at 12.08.57 PMHere’s more ore evidence that Nature-based Education is catching on as an organizing theme for pre-schools and early elementary classrooms! Kaitlin Mulhere recently wrote about Nature-based Programs in the Keene Sentinel newspaper:

Four-year-old Myles Alderfer waddles in his snow pants from the goats’ pen toward the trickling creek. In his small hands he holds a yellow bucket, as tall as his knees and half-filled with water. A little bit sloshes out of the bucket with each step he takes…

Read the whole article by Kaitlin Mulhere about Nature -based Education in the Monadnock Region of New Hampshire here:

Nature-based Education Programs Gaining Popularity in Area


Wondering how to educate for sustainability in an urban school? How to garden in an asphalt playground? Or how to foster a commitment to sustainability in your school whether urban, suburban, or rural? You need to check out the video and links below.

education outside

Education Outside educates for sustainability in San Francisco schools. They do more than make school gardens, they connect students, teachers, parents, and administrators to nature and to the principles of sustainability that govern our world.

Get inspired! Check out their new video below and visit them at Education Outside.

goatsOne day last summer Patty Collins, fifth-and-sixth-grade teacher at Reading (Vermont) Elementary School and an alumna of Antioch’s Educating for Sustainability MEd program, was walking her golden retriever past her school, when the dog waded into a sprawling patch of poison ivy. She realized that she had complained about the poison ivy for eleven years, ever since she had come to Reading. “No one has been able to solve that problem, because it borders an ecologically sensitive area, and chemicals were out of the question.”

The next day she asked her class a question: How can poison ivy be safely eradicated? Their reply: Blank looks.

Each day, she simply asked the same question. “After two weeks of no answers, they finally began to get embarrassed,” she said. Possible solutions trickled in. Collins asked them to analyze each solution for practicality and cost—their budget was $12 from the student activities fund. They considered black plastic, boiling water, vinegar and salt, none of which fit the criteria. Finally one student asked “Do goats eat poison ivy?”

Analysis showed that, if the goats were borrowed, it was affordable. “Within a week, we had three goats,” Collins said. The whole town went “goat crazy…”

Read about how the whole community got involved and the happy ending to Goats Come to School at this link!

It’s not easy making the transition from California springtime to New England mud season. I recently traveled from Los Angeles to Napa, visiting schools, meeting with teachers, and talking up Educating for Sustainability (EFS). I am pleased to report that EFS is alive and well in many California locales.

The Environmental Charter High School in Los Angeles integrates sustainability into every facet of their facility and curriculum they can manage, including repurposing a concrete patio into a green  space and using the detritus to build an outdoor amphitheater.ECHS

Place-based learning is at the core of a middle school project in Santa Cruz where students designed and installed mosaics depicting local flora and fauna on a bridge over the local watershed and at Washington Elementary in Santa Barbara where students’ ceramic tiles create a backdrop for the school garden.


Fifth and sixth graders at Pacific Elementary School in Davenport work in teams to prepare locally making_lasagnesourced food for the school’s daily lunch program.

SFUSD gardenSchool gardens are ubiquitous in California. From the Open Alternative School in Santa Barbara to the urban green spaces in San Francisco, schools are integrating gardens into the curriculum.  With the help of organizations like Education Outside a first grade class pulls up garden plants to learn about drawing science diagrams, third graders harvest kale to crisp and snack on, and afterschool programs explore life cycles by tending native plantings.

OAS gardenSystemic change is evident through the work of organizations like the Center for Ecoliteracy and the commitment of the San Francisco Unified School District to Greening the Next Generation and creating an administrative position for… Ecoliteracy Content Specialist!

Check out these innovative EFS schools and organizations through the links at the top of this blog page.

Starting Off Right: Creating Nature Preschools and Forest Kindergartens

Saturday, March 2, 2013 Antioch University New England

with Ken Finch, Green Hearts Institute for Nature in Childhood


Nature preschools and forest kindergartens combine the strength of environmental education and early childhood education, nurturing healthy and holistic child development while simultaneously fostering life-long conservation values.

This full-day workshop will address the nitty-gritty planning necessary to get a nature preschool/forest kindergarten up and running, and off on a successful path. We’ll focus on the creation of business plans, including:

  • simple market analyses;
  • promotion;
  • site and faculty needs;
  • staffing requirements and options; and
  • the crucial income and expense projections.

We’ll also review fundraising options and basic risk management issues.

Participants will draft a three-year budget for their operation, rough-up a promotional flyer and/or website, and prepare and practice persuasive verbal descriptions and “sales pitches” for their school. We’ll allocate plenty of time to share your own experiences and ideas, and will take a close look at existing models that have proven successful in the U.S.

Ken Finch is the founder and President of Green Hearts Institute for Nature in Childhood located in Omaha, Nebraska. Green Hearts is a small conservation organization focused on restoring the bonds between children and nature. In that role, Ken speaks, teaches, writes, and consults about nature play and nature-based preschools.

Ken has been working in environmental education for 38 years, and holds a masters degree in that field from Antioch New England. He has served as the Director of two of the country’s largest nature centers, has been a senior manager at two children’s museums, ans was the Minnesota State Director for the National Audubon Society. Ken’s responsibilities have included supervision of two nature/science preschools, and he has assisted with the planning and development of several others. Ken is a former national President of the Association of Nature Center Administrators, and has been active with numerous other nonprofit boards.

Register online in January at:

by David Sobel

THE KIDS HAVE BEEN UP since seven-thirty playing computer games and watching cartoons. What a travesty for them to be inside on such a beautiful day, you harrumph to yourself. On the refrigerator, you notice the schedule of events from the nearby nature center. “Let’s Get Face to Face with Flowers,” it beckons. Just the thing! It’s a sparkly May morning. Buds are bursting. There’s a warm breeze full of the aromatic scent of the woods just waking up.

You trundle the kids into the minivan. They despondently consent. “Do we have to do a program? Programs are boring,” the older one complains. But as soon as you pull into the parking lot at Happy Hills Nature Center, their faces brighten. They fling the sliding door open and scamper down through the blossom-filled meadow to the shore of the pond. Ross, age seven, pulls off his sneakers and wades in, bent over searching for frogs. Amanda, age ten, plops down and starts making a dandelion tiara. What a good decision, you think to yourself.

Terri, the smiley naturalist wearing the official Happy Hills insigniaed staff shirt, saunters over. “Here for the flower program?” she chirps. “We’re meeting up in the Cozy Corner room to get started.”

Ross asks, “Can Freddie come too?” holding up the fat green frog he has befriended.

Terri’s bright face darkens a bit. “Sorry. Freddie needs to stay in the pond. Did you know the oils from your hands can make Freddie sick?”

You can find out what happens next in this story and read the whole article as it originally appeared in the July/August 2012 issue of Orion magazine.

And listen to David Sobel’s interview about the Look, Don’t Touch phenomenon on Public Radio International’s Environmental News Magazine – Living on Earth with Bruce Gellerman.

Then “Leave a Comment” to further the discussion!

by Ron LaBrusciano

This is an amazing story.  It speaks to the value of resourcefulness that is missing in the American education of children.  You may have heard the story of Caine Monroy’s Arcade on National Public Radio or been one of more than a million people who have watched Nirvan Mullick’s short film on YouTube. Here it is:

Somehow this child has either escaped technology and video games or leads a life that balances  play and learning of other kinds.  No fancy technology, no expensive arts materials, no programmed learning or instruction evident here – just an inquisitive child, an understanding adult, permission to play and create, and lots of boxes and throwaways.

Caine Monroy teaches us that we must sustain creativity and the joy of learning for its own sake. When we lose the opportunity to play with ideas and freely create we lose the essence of what makes us human. As Educators For Sustainability we must face the fact that curiosity and wonder can not be designed but must be fostered and allowed the space to flourish.

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