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Nature Connection with Early Learners

May 5, 2021 2pm

Workshop with Amanda McMickle of the Will Smith Zoo School at the San Antonio Zoo

Connecting our youngest audiences with nature is so important and beneficial to families and to our world. Not only will parents continue to look for schools and programming for children up to age five, a relationship developed with nature at a young age results in proactive behaviors towards our vulnerable planet well into adulthood. Exposure to nature-based programming and play is shown to help children’s academic performance, to increase cognitive abilities and socio-emotional skills and physical and nutrition habits. Outcomes of nature-based education and play include increased creativity, critical thinking and problem solving and reductions in symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Further, children who spend time outside develop meaningful relationships with nature that result in proactive behaviors as adults toward our communities - both environmental and social. This conservation ethic and understanding of community engagement is also transferred to parents and family members and ultimately can be scaled up to the community level. Nature-based education, formal and informal, can yield communities with higher levels of inclusion and diversity and engaged citizens who value protecting the environment and promote sustainability within their communities. While nature preschools and kindergartens are becoming increasingly popular, other models that complement more traditional forms of education are emerging as well and deserve attention, discussion and research. Come hear from four experts in the field of early childhood and nature-based learning. Panelists include a university professor who has done extensive research on the development of preschoolers' relationships with nature, a childcare center director who has seamlessly incorporated nature-based learning into a NAEYC accredited school, a nature-based preschool director whose school is part of a zoo, and a leader in a community outreach center for environmental sustainability operated by San Antonio College that offers programming for families with young children. The panel discussion will start with a description of each panelists program or school, followed by a question-and-answer discussion with the participants.