The first online early childhood education degree focused on nature-based early learning.

Nature-Based Early Learning

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University of Cincinnati is at the cutting edge in Early Childhood Education by offering the first online degree program with a focus in nature-based early learning. Nature-Based Early Learning is one of four concentrations offered within the Associate in Early Childhood Care & Education and Bachelor’s in Early Childhood Education programs. This concentration will provide the knowledge base or dispositions to work in nature-based early learning programs. This concentration specifically targets students seeking ways to use their greened-up playgrounds, playscapes, and nearby green space or those planning to obtain employment in nature-based early childhood programs or forest schools.

Nature-Based Early Learning Articles

Nature-Based Early Learning Courses

Full List of Nature-Based Early Learning Courses

Nature-Based Early Learning

This course sets the foundation for nature-based early learning. Students will study the principles, philosophical underpinnings, and models for nature-based education in early childhood education, exploring various models of nature-based early learning. Students will study the tenets of early childhood environmental education and explore the propensities of a nature-based educator and how nature lends itself to a child-driven curriculum.

Movement, Storytelling, and the Arts in Nature

This course focuses on how teachers can build on children’s enjoyment of play to encourage the development of environmental understandings and 21st Century skills for diverse groups of children. Through creative arts, music, movement, and stories, students will learn how to plan and implement joyful instruction that links to children’s immediate surroundings, later expanding to larger environmental concerns and contexts.

Becoming an Early Childhood Teacher-Naturalist

This course aims to develop both teachers’ and children’s penchant for nature (biophilia) in exploratory, contemplative, and knowledgeable ways. The quintessence of curiosity about natural phenomena will be fostered throughout the course. Students will explore ways to advocate for children’s rights to experience a connection to nature. They will also be introduced to the role of science and the nature of expertise.

Natural History for Teachers and Young Learners

This course employs cross-disciplinary inquiry of organisms in their natural environments and their relationships to other species. The focus is on students’ local biomes and will require students to explore local habitats and natural history organizations in their respective communities. Students will use their learning in this course to create a nature playscape for young children that reflects the indigenous habitats in their respective communities.

Inquiry and Early STEM Learning in Nature

This course explores the numerous ways science, mathematics, engineering, and technology can be integrated into nature-based early learning. It introduces Whitehead’s learning cycle of romance, precision, and generalization with regard to a nature and play-based curriculum for young children. It focuses on a reflective, educative STEM curriculum that fosters eco literacy development within a framework of early childhood environmental education.

Interpreting Nature with Young Children

Students will self-select a venue for a field experience in a nature-based learning setting (nature-based school, nature camp, zoo, museum, etc). Upon approval of the venue by the university course instructor, the student will engage in 20 hours during the semester supporting the lead instructor and employing the knowledge, skills, and dispositions inherent in the pre-requisite coursework. Students will engage in scheduled seminars and fulfill the documentation requirements for this practicum experience.

Leadership in Nature-Based Early Learning Programs

This course will delve into the complex responsibilities of a leader or administrator for a nature-based early learning program. Students will examine personal and professional traits for effective leadership, risk management, licensing, budgets and funding, sustainable approaches to sharing natural spaces, high-quality curriculum and instruction, diversity, equity, and inclusion in nature-based programs, and developing dynamic family and community partnerships.

Nature Pedagogy, Assessment and Program Evaluation

This course focuses on integrating disciplinary content, including literacy, with formative and summative assessments within other content disciplines in a nature-based curriculum to document children’s progress in ways that align with early childhood standards, learning outcomes, and environmental education guidelines. It will also provide a framework for using these and other data to conduct a program evaluation.

Internship in Nature-Based Early Learning Programs

This capstone experience may be a volunteer or paid position in a nature-based early learning program, but the student must be able to have opportunities to demonstrate initiative and leadership in planning and implementing a significant portion of the program. At least three internship hours per day or 15 hours per week are expected to fulfill the requirements for this course. The instructor for the course must approve students’ internship placement. Students will engage in scheduled weekly seminars and fulfill the documentation requirements for the internship.

Introduction to Education for Sustainability

This course will present information on sustainability principles set forth by UNESCO and environmental education practices. Student will learn about the history of Environmental Education and will focus on preparing lessons using an eco-pedagogical approach for teaching about environmental sustainability across disciplines. Students will delve into research and phenomena regarding the interconnections between physical, living, and human systems.

Education for Sustainability: Principles and Practices

Students will learn about the impacts of individual and collective consumption of resources on the biosphere. They will analyze the political and economic barriers and different individual and cultural perspectives that prohibit sustainable actions. Students will use conservation ethics to challenge and alter their personal and civic responsibilities towards creating more ecologically sustainable communities. Students will then apply this knowledge and their personal ethics to the development of educational and interpretive curricula and assessment of planned outcomes. They will discuss ways to communicate this information to a wide range of audiences using a variety of media.

Applied Research & Evaluation in Education and Sustainability Practices

This course will serve as the capstone for the Education for Environmental Sustainability certificate and present models for applied research, educational assessment of learning outcomes, and program evaluation in education for environmental sustainability. Students will use UNESCO’s framework or other appropriate tools for analyzing environmental issues. They will be encouraged to use logical analysis and reasoning in discussions and communications about environmental and sustainability issues, developing dispositions based on conservation ethics. They will create a research plan as part of a grant proposal and will be encouraged to conduct the research and present their findings.

Child and Youth Environments

This course will focus on environments in which children and youth live, play, work, and learn and how these respective environments influence human development.

Educational and NGO Grant Writing and Project Management

The purpose of this course is to investigate sources of grant funding at the federal, state, and local level that are best suited to serve communities with diverse populations. Another primary purpose is examine grant announcements, RFPs (Request for Proposals), and example grant proposals. Students will also practice developing a grant proposal with a focus on human development, community engagement, and/or families and children with diverse needs.