Sunday, August 5, 2018

World of Wonder Conference

Nature-based early childhood education is a passion, so it's not surprising that I spent the last few days at the World of Wonder International Nature-Based Early Learning Conference in Chicago. This conference was a joint venture for Natural Start Alliance (early childhood branch of the North American Association for Environmental Education) and the Nature Pedagogy International Association. This is the third consecutive year I've been able to attend and present. It's always fun to see familiar faces and inspiring to be around individuals doing such amazing work for children.

This year's conference was held at the Brookfield Zoo near Chicago. Though commuting every morning and evening wasn't all that exciting, being able to spend my days learning about my passion on the grounds of a gorgeous zoo was pretty nice.

Walking the grounds brought back many amazing memories from my any years working at the Milwaukee County Zoo.

I  even got a hike in on the zoo grounds.

While I loved the zoo and felt fortunate to be able to present, a true highlight was the field trip portion of the conference. It was an honor to have my school's trail and outdoor classroom be a field trip destination. Nearly 50 educators from throughout the country and around the world (11 states and 4 countries) came to see public school nature-based education in action.

While the feedback from the guests was very positive, they may have been enamored with the cute and cuddled up family of possums that took refuge from the sweltering heat in a storage bench near our oak tree classroom.

The guests were led around the trail by some of my former nature kindergarteners.

 Besides being tour guides, they were also very eager nature players.

It was  a very humbling experience to have my site be part of something so near and dear to my heart. I am very blessed to have so much support and I know that this program will only get better.

Speaking of being blessed, I was so excited to see two of my nature mentors join me at my site. When an outdoor classroom was just a thought in my head, I reached out to these two amazing individuals. Both Patti Bailie and Eliza Minnucci unselfishly shared their time and talent to counsel me as I worked to take my ideas and turn them into a reality.

Based on the feedback and excitement of this weekend, I think their consultation worked.

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