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Natural Wonder Summit

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Check out the 2018 Natural Wonder Summit in NC or 2017 Natural Wonder Summit in CT.

March 15-17, 2019
Miami Nature Play School
North Miami, Florida

About the Summit
en español

The Natural Wonder Summit is a very special gathering. More than straightforward conference, the Summit is an event for nature-based early childhood practitioners who want to recharge and celebrate! Feel the energy and kinship offered by others who have the same goals as you.

This year's summit has a special emphasis on bilingual programs. We are offering sessions in English y en Español! We will also welcome families and children to a portion of the summit designed as a pop-up nature play space. This will provide a wonderful example for attendees to see how nature play can unfold anywhere!

We are grateful to our partners at the Miami Nature Playschool, The Childhood Nature Project, and North Miami Florida Parks & Recreation for helping us bring this event to you! 

About Our Keynote Presenter:
David Sobel 

Noted educator, researcher, and author David Sobel will share the Friday night keynote at the Miami Nature Playschool, followed by a campfire. He will also offer a Saturday morning workshop at the Florida International University during a big day of workshops! 

David has spent the last twenty-five years working in the field of child development, place-based education, and parenting with nature. He has recently retired from his post as Senior Faculty in the Education Department at Antioch University New England in Keene, NH. His expertise and passion has led to authoring seven previous books and being identified as one of the “gurus and rock stars of environmental education” by Teacher magazine.

Some of Sobel's books include: Beyond Ecophobia; Place-Based Education: Connecting Classrooms and Communities; Wild Play: Parenting Adventures in the Great Outdoors among others. He also wrote Nature Preschools and Forest Kindergartens: The Handbook for Outdoor Learning. 

Friday Night Keynote & Campfire 

Enchanted Forest Elaine Gordon Park
1725 NE 135th St., North Miami, FL

Registration and Welcome | 6:30-7 p.m.

Why 21st Century Children Need Nature: Nature Preschools and Forest Kindergartens | 7-8:15 p.m.
Keynote Presenter: David Sobel, Antioch University

The original kindergarten — the children’s garden —conceived by German educator Friedrich Froebel in the 19th century, was a place where children learned through play, often in nature. That idea is fast eroding. Children aren’t playing in the garden anymore; instead they’re filling in bubbles on worksheets. The new movement of nature-based early childhood education can reverse that trend. There are thousands of forest kindergartens throughout Europe and new programs opening every month in North America. Let’s examine the promise of this healthy approach towards living and learning outdoors with young children. 

Networking Campfire | 8:30-9:30 p.m.
Get to know other participants and discuss David's keynote during this informal campfire gathering.


Florida International University, Wolfe University Center
3000 N.E. 151 Street, North Miami, FL 33181

Registration with light breakfast | 8:30-9 a.m.

Opening Gathering | 9-9:15 a.m.

Childhood and Nature: Design Principles for Educators | 9:15-10:30 a.m.
David Sobel, Antioch University, NH

When children have access to free play in natural areas, they do the same things, around the country and around the world. They make special places, go on adventures, develop fantasy games, go hunting and gathering, craft small worlds. These recurrent play patterns can be used as design principles to help structure compelling outdoor activities with children, and these engagements can lead to environmental values and behaviors in adulthood. We’ll recollect some of our own significant experiences from childhood. Then we’ll explore the nearby environment using some of these recurrent play motifs and design appropriate activities for young children.

Lessons from Mother Nature on Leadership for Parents | 9:15-10:30 a.m. 
Julio Llosa, Grupo Consulta, Peru and Patricia Leon, Miami Nature Playschool
Mother nature teaches. As parents we have to observe, listen and learn. Leadership, managing our fears, learning through curiosity and values are everyday lessons that our children can and must profit from. Through a brief and practical scientific approach of how our brain functions, we intend to take you on a trip where nature´s wonders open the portals of questioning, finding, understanding and learning; we welcome you to the world of guiding your children´s positive development on the wings of nature. 

Pop-Up Nature Preschool | 10:30-12 p.m.
Free to local families and children up to age 6 - come out and play during this interactive nature play date. Summit event attendees can observe this example of how to facilitate nature-based experiences in a park setting.

Best Practices in Nature-Based Early Childhood Education | 10:30-12 p.m.
Christy Merrick, Natural Start Alliance/NAAEE
What do great nature-based preschools have in common, and what sets them apart from more traditional programs? The Natural Start Alliance, a project of the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE), set out to answer this question, drawing on the expertise of a national network of nature-based education leaders. This session will give you a sneak peek inside a new resource that describes professional practices that nature-based programs use to make their programs safe, effective, and inclusive. 

Cultivating Wonder Through Nature Immersion | 10:30 - 12 p.m.
Amanda Rose Newton and Sydney Coman, Verdi EcoSchool

Research shows that positive changes in behavior and learning stem from motivation. At Verdi Eco School, we look to the natural environment as our third teacher. Through engagement with the outside world, students are able to strengthen their academic skills as well as demonstrate improved self-regulation. Join us as we demonstrate the power of nature-based education, to journey outdoors where any environment can be transformed into a place of learning.

Lunch with optional walk to Biscayne Bay | 12 - 1 p.m.

Nature-Based Curriculum Inspired by Reggio Emilia Approaches | 1-2:15 p.m.
Barbi Perez, La Scuola

Loving Nature, Engaging Children: A Conversation about Nature-Based ECE | 1-2:15 p.m.
Yash Bhagwanji, Florida Atlantic University
What helps children in developing meaningful connections with nature? Join in a conversation about the meaning behind the experiences of children. 

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) in Nature-Based Early Childhood Classrooms | 2:30-4 p.m.
Sylvia Collazo, Florida Atlantic University
The Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework provides an opportunity for all children to engage in learning, regardless of ability. This presentation will provide participants with a background on the framework and how it applies to early education settings. Using sample lessons from a soil exploration unit for toddlers, participants will engage in hands-on activities that demonstrate how UDL practices can be applied to nature-based activities for young children. Participants will then evaluate their nature-based programs and share with their colleagues how they can incorporate UDL into their current curriculum.

Shinrin Yoku Forest Bathing | 2:30-4 p.m.
Fereshteh Toosi

Forest bathing—also known as forest therapy or shinrin yoku in Japanese— takes the form of a guided walk designed to relax and rejuvenate. A trained guide will facilitate a series of exercises to leave you rejuvenated and hopefully recommitted to your "why" for doing the work you do to connect young children and nature.  A brief history and explanation of this popular Japanese health-form, slowly gaining in popularity in the U.S., will be provided.  We will move slowly but not vigorously (as this is not exercise). Please dress for the weather and bring your water bottle and a towel or mat to sit on.

Closing Gathering | 4 p.m.Take a moment to reflect on our time together as a full day of workshops comes to an end. Professional development certificates are awarded following a brief survey.

Optional Tour of Miami Nature Playschool: Enchanted Forest Elaine Gordon Park site | 4:30-5:30 p.m.
1725 NE 135th Street, North Miami, FL

Sunset Happy Hour in Downtown Miami | 7-9 p.m. 
If you want to keep the day's conversations going, meet up for a drink during this optional happy hour. More details to follow in your confirmation.

Sunday SCHEDULE (Optional)

9-10:30 a.m. | Preschool Tour 1 | Miami Nature Playschool
Miami Nature Playschool: Earth N'Us Farm site, 7630 NE 1st Ave, Miami, FL 33138

11-12:30 p.m. | Preschool Tour 2 |  La Scuola
7412 Sunset Drive, Miami, FL 33143

1-4 p.m. | Boat Tour of the Everglades (limited spaces available, includes lunch)

Consider staying at Earth N'Us Farm (one of the Miami Nature Playschool's locations) in a Canopy Tree House with complete listings here! There are limited rooms, but cool and affordable - definitely worth checking out. Another option is the Best Western Plus Windsor Inn is located at 12210 Biscayne Blvd, North Miami, FL 33181. It's a quick drive from our host's location at Miami Nature Playschool. This is a popular time to visit, so don't delay booking your room!

Ready to join us? REGISTER NOW!

And don't forget to nominate a nature-based teacher you admire for the Wonder Award. 
Learn more about our payment and refund policies here. Thank you for joining us!

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