2019 Conference

Registration is now OPEN!  This year’s Midwest Early Childhood Educator Symposium will be held on June 1st at The Morton Arboretum.

Midwest Early Childhood Educator Symposium
Lessons from the Forest: How Great Programs Place Nature at the Heart of Their Curriculum
Saturday, June 1, 2019, 8:30 a.m.-3:00 p.m.
Thornhill Education Center
The Morton Arboretum
4100 Illinois Route 53, Lisle, IL

Nature-based learning is one of the fastest-growing approaches to early education in the United States today. Leaders in the field are working to develop a common set of practices for high-quality nature-based preschool programs – this symposium will highlight these emerging best practices and share practical tips for bringing nature into the classroom and taking learning outdoors. Discover what the schools at the forefront of this movement – nature and forest schools – have in common, and what lessons do they hold for other schools who are just starting to step outside.

The Northern Illinois Nature Preschool Association (NINPA), in conjunction with the Wisconsin Nature-based Early Childhood Association (WiNBECA) and The Morton Arboretum, is holding a symposium on June 1, 2019. This one-day event will bring together early childhood educators, administrators, and naturalists from across Midwest to share ideas to advance nature-based education in early childhood education. Join us to add new skills to your toolkit and learn about emerging ideas and trends in the field from experts and peers.

The 2019 keynote speaker will be Christy Merrick, Special Projects Advisor at the Natural Start Alliance. Christy has worked in environmental education and communications for over 20 years. In 2013, she launched the North American Association for Environmental Education’s Natural Start Alliance, and is now working with education leaders to develop a common set of practices for high-quality nature-based preschool programs in the United States. You’ll get a look inside this new resource and see how it is being applied.



8:30 to 9:15 a.m.

Registration, Coffee, and Demonstrations

9:15 to 9:30 a.m.

Welcome and Introduction (Arbor Room)

9:30 to 10:30 a.m.

Keynote Speaker: Christy Merrick, Natural Start Alliance

10:30 to 10:45 a.m.


10:45 to 11:45 a.m.

Concurrent Session 1

  • Vince Gortner, moderator,  “Panel on Outdoor Intruder Safety and Emergency Planning”
  • Catherine Koons Hubbard, “How Learning to Put on Your Own Rainboots Leads to Academic Success”
  • Marilyn Brink, “The Power in Nature Play and Nature-based Early Learning”
  • Laura Scheinholtz, “From Roots to STEMs: Mud play as a building block of early childhood education.” (Outdoor session)

11:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.


12:45 to 1:45 p.m.

Concurrent Session 2

  • Carla Gull, “Branching Out: Tree Climbing in U.S. Early Childhood Settings”
  • Jessica Fong, “Nature Play: A Catalyst for Language Development”
  • Christa Donner, Arlene Brennan, Karen Brennan,  Emily Klein, Gary Morrissey,  Activating Natural Space in the City: One Nature Preserve, Four Approaches”
  • Patti Darby, “Through the Lens: Nature Photography with Children”
  • Rachel Schaller “Risk vs Hazard in Outdoor Education”

1:45 to 2:00 p.m.


2:00 to 3:00 p.m.

Concurrent Session 3

  • Peter Dargatz, “You’re Not in This Alone! Enhancing the Curriculum through Collaborative Community Connections”
  • Rebecca Gonzalez “Integrating Nature in an Urban Classroom”
  • Catherine Koons Hubbard, Virginia Wiggen, Matt Flower, Tara Von Dollen “When Nature Calls”
  • Kathryn Rybicki “The ABC’s of ASL: Sign Language and Nature Based Early Childhood”
  • Kim Cuenca, “Naturally Introducing Mindfulness and Yoga”

3:00 p.m.

Wrap up and Evaluations

Fees and Registration

$55.00 member
$55.00 nonmember
(Fees include admission to the Arboretum)
BY PHONE: 630-719-2468 ( Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.)

promo (2)