Log in

  • Home
  • Chesapeake Nature Play & Learning Conference


ThursDaY, October 22, 2020  |  9AM - 4pm 

Missed out? Don't worry! You can view the recorded conference here. Sorry, PD certificates are not available for this recorded event.

About the Chesapeake Nature Play & Learning Conference    

Discover a range of outdoor learning environments and approaches to natural play space design during this one-of-a-kind virtual event! Enjoy a day full of engaging workshops that highlight ways to take learning outdoors. If you are searching for ideas for your program's nature play space, or you'd like more information about the benefits of nature play, this conference offers a variety of examples from the Chesapeake region.

A professional development certificate will be provided to attendees at the conclusion of the event. If you participate live and complete the assessment, Maryland teachers may also receive approved MSDE clock hours. This is event is co-sponsored by these wonderful partners of the Maryland Nature Play Space Working Group:


Schedule of Virtual Sessions 

 Time  Session or Activity
9 a.m. 

 Opening Remarks

9:30-  10:15 a.m.  Keynote: John Henderson, Parks Rx
10:15-10:30 a.m.   Outdoor activity and bio break

10:30-11:15 a.m. 

 Speaker Panel A: Case Studies of Natural Play Spaces
 Liz Houston, Early Childhood Health Outdoors (ECHO)
National Wildlife Federation

Jason Lee, First Baptist Church o
f Clarendon Child Development Center, Alexandria, VA

12 p.m.
 Speaker Panel B: Dispelling Green Myths and Fears 
 Naomi Alana Sachs, University of Maryland
 Rose Brusaferro, PhD, Backyard Basecamp/BLISS Meadows
 Sarah Carlson, Founder and Director of Brooklyn Nature Days, NY

12-1 p.m  Lunch with virtual networking option

1-1:45 p.m.   Breakout sessions: Nature Play Space Design Tips & Tricks 
 Breakout 1: Affordable Nature Play Spaces

 Facilitated by: Amanda Knight, Early Childhood Health Outdoors (ECHO),
 National Wildlife Federation

 Breakout 2: Design in Action: Folger McKinsey Elementary School Project
 Facilitated by:  University of Maryland Landscape Architecture Students:
 Lauren Gray,  Alison  Jones, Emma Podietz, and Christopher Samoray with guidance   from P
rofessor Byoung-Suk Kweon, University of Maryland

 Breakout 3:  National COVID-19 Outdoor Learning Initiative
 Facilitated by: Nancy Strinste, Earlyspace, LLC and Mary Hardcastle, Baltimore City   Recreation and Parks

 Breakout 4: How Nature Play Spaces Support Skill Development
 Facilitated by Briget Mcardle and Michelle Byron

2 p.m.

 Outdoor activity and bio break

2-2:45 p.m.   Speaker Panel D: Maintaining Your Natural Play Space

 Brenda Iraola, Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission 
 Ali Culhane, Get to Green
 Hilary Roberts-King, DBCCC (Downtown Baltimore Childcare Center)

3:45 p.m.
 Networking Happy Hour with facilitated topic discussion
4 p.m. 
 Closing remarks and evaluation

Session Descriptions

Keynote: Health and Happiness through Nature Contact
Presenter: John Henderson, Director of Parks Rx

The park prescription movement is providing incentives for people to reconnect with nature in their neighborhoods and communities. There is strong evidence that getting outdoors regularly for a dose of nature can improve your physical and mental health, but it can also make you happier. Discover ongoing efforts to broaden the audience for Park Rx beyond healthcare providers and their patents. Schools, universities, employee health, wellness programs, and veteran’s organization are audiences that can benefit from this insightful keynote.

For more information, you can read our presenter's bios here.

Morning Workshops 

Speaker Panel A: Case Studies
Panelists present their natural play spaces and highlight their features and uses. Participants will discover how curriculum and skill development can seamlessly flow from these spaces. Tip, tricks, and ways to avoid planning pitfalls will also be discussed.

Speaker Panel B: Myth Busters: Dispelling Green Fears
Panelists will examine some of the concerns and often unfounded fears people have regarding nature play, especially in urban settings. Panelists will share strategies that help mitigate real and perceived fear surrounding the creation and use of natural play spaces.

Lunch with Virtual Networking

Take a video tour of area nature play spaces to see: Elijah Cummings Druid Heights Community Development Corporation’s Nature Play Space, Irvine Nature Center’s Outdoor Classroom, and the Falls Church Episcopal Day School

Panel C: Breakout Sessions with Design Tips & Tricks

Facilitators in each of the break out rooms model steps in the design process and important considerations for natural play spaces based on location, site, intended audience, ages, curricular and developmental goals, and range of other factors. 

Break out room 1: Affordable Play Settings for Outdoor Learning Environments
Facilitated by: Colorado Early Childhood Health Outdoors, ECHO Program, National Wildlife Federation (NWF)
Learn ways to activate and improve your outdoor learning environment through low-cost, high-impact changes. Participants will gain inspiration and ideas that they can implement in their own spaces by creatively using affordable materials to support children’s play.

Break out room 2: Design in Action for Folger McKinsey Elementary School
Facilitated by: University of Maryland School of Landscape Architecture

Break out room 3COVID-19
Facilitated by: Nancy Striniste, Earlyspace, LLC and Mary Hardcastle, Baltimore City Recreation and Parks

Break out room 4: How Nature Play Spaces Can Support Child Development
Facilitated by: Michelle Byron and Briget Mcardle

Afternoon Panel

Maintaining Your Nature Play Space
Panelists discuss a variety of natural play spaces and give practical advice about how to maintain them, especially in licensed settings with young children.

Networking Happy Hour

Participants will complete a poll to determine discussion topics, which may include:

• Benefits of outdoor learning and play in the age of COVID-19

• Maintenance of Natural Play Spaces

• Design Ideas and Natural Materials

• Nature Play at Schools

• Funding Sources for Nature Play Spaces

We look forward to an inspiring day about nature play!

Learn more about our payment and refund policies here. Thank you for joining us.

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software