After establishing a licensed nature preschool in Maryland, it didn't take long to realize that more nature-based schools would sprout up across America. At the time I could only count 12 nature preschools and forest kindergartens in the U.S. (though surely there were more!). Responsible for leading a new preschool team, I was frustrated at the limited sources of training for nature-based early childhood educators and directors. There were countless opportunities for traditional childcare providers or for outdoor educators. But the unique needs of professionals in nature preschools was still so new that there were virtually no mainstream PD opportunities for us.
This was the start of an important realization for me: if we want to connect children and families with nature, we must give nature-based teachers the relevant training that they need.
Since that time, I marvel at the influx of nature-based schools and programs. Now we are part of an interwoven network that spans not only the U.S., but around the globe. It is amazing! But how can we tackle so many diverse training needs in early childhood environmental education? One part of the solution is to offer training close to home, serving small cohorts of teachers who network and support one another. Little by little, these interconnected networks can build capacity to support all the amazing work emerging in ECEE. I am honored to have this opportunity to move our field forward by "connecting the dots" across the Eastern region, bringing meaningful nature-based training to your neck of the woods.
If we want to continue to grow nature-based early learning programs, we must address the professional needs of those who facilitate them. It's that simple. That is why ERAFANS was created, and that will always be our central focus.
Together let's keep the wonder and wild alive in every teacher...and child!
Finding Peace in Nature,
Eastern Region Association of Forest and Nature Schools (ERAFANS)