Early Ecology

"Children are born with a sense of wonder and an affinity for Nature.  Properly cultivated, these values can mature into ecological literacy, and eventually into sustainable patterns of living."

-Zenobia Barlow

"Through deep nature connection children joyfully learn about the cycles of nature, of life and death, food and waste and through this they learn about their own ecological system: self, family, community, beliefs, values and their place on this earth."  

-Joanna Ferraro

Why Early Ecology Education?

 In their most formative years children need direct contact with nature, time to experiment, express themselves and learn through touch and action about the world around them.  In order to nurture the next generations to be stewards of this earth, children need a rich natural environment, a community of other children and caring, thoughtful adults.  With the majority of people living in cities; we need to create opportunities for our urban children to regularly spend time in natural playscapes.  Developing their own relationship with the local wild spaces children learn about cycles of nature such as: life, death and regeneration and the food and waste cycles, as well as receiving the health and wellness benefits that come from playing outdoors and nature.   In addition to the research behind the importance of nature play for children there is also the priceless joy, confidence and life-long wonder that children who have a nature rich childhood enjoy.  

Web Resources

Academy of Forest Kindergarden Teachers

Offering training and certification for  educators dedicated to connecting children with nature.

Children & Nature Network (C&NN)
A world wide network dedicated to connecting children and nature.  

Center for Ecoliteracy- The Center for Ecoliteracy is a nonprofit that advances ecological education in K–12 schools.  Great resource for parents and teachers.


Benefits – National Wildlife Federation
This website has links to studies proving the many benefits of spending time in nature, including less stress and better standardized test scores!  Great resource for parents and teachers.

LIfe Lab- A national leader in the garden-based learning movement life lab offers workshops and resources. 

National Institute of Play- Founded by Dr. Stewart Brown, dedicated to integrating scientific research on play into life.  

Recommended Books

The Last Child in the Woods
by Richard Louv, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, ©2005

Growing Up Wild – Exploring Nature with Young Children
by The Council For Environmental Education, ©2009

Natural Playscapes-  Creating Outdoor Play Environments for the Soul, by Rusty Keeler ©2008

Sowing the Seeds of Wonder- Discovering the Garden in Early Childhood Education
by Life Lab, published by The National Gardening Association ©2010

Place-Based Education
by David Sobel, The Orion Society, ©2004


Programs for Older Children and Adults

Art of Mentoring / 8 Shields - The 8 Shields model by Jon Young, fosters mentoring and deep nature connection practices. http://8shields.org/

Gaia Girls - Nature based girls groups, long term mentoring, summer camps, rites of passage ceremonies combining social and emotional intelligence skills with deep nature connection. Various East Bay locations, Berkeley, Oakland, and San Francisco, CA. https://www.gaiagirlspassages.org/

Riekes Center - Nature awareness, summer camps, fitness, community service, and creative arts. The Core Values of Self Supervision, Honest Communication and Sensitivity to Others are the Center’s operational and social standards. South Bay, Menlo Park, CA. http://www.riekes.org/

Sienna Ranch - Preschool through teen programs, summer camps, special events, and holiday camps. Uses multifaceted learning experiences based on a 21-acre ranch. East Bay Area, Lafayette, CA. https://www.siennaranch.net/

Stepping Stones - Teens programs to guide and support through long term mentoring and contemporary rites of passage through nature based programs. Various Bay Area Locations. http://www.steppingstonesproject.org/

Trackers - Youth and adult outdoor skills programs, forest school preschool and kindergarten, summer camps, specialty workshops, after school programs, and mentoring programs. East Bay Area, Berkeley, CA. https://trackersbay.com/

Weaving Earth - Adult, teen, and youth programs guided by the inherent interrelationship of all life, Weaving Earth fosters leadership in support of the holistic health of people, communities and the planet upon which we all depend. North Bay, Sonoma County, CA. https://weavingearth.com/

Vilda - Wilderness skills, nature connection, and ecological stewardship through summer camps, after school programs, backpacking trips, homeschool programs, specialty workshops and more. North Bay Area, Fairfax, CA. http://www.vildanature.org/

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