About Me

In a world where children and adults alike are suffering from the effects of high-pressure learning environments, I'm a vocal advocate for a compassionate, common-sense approach to early childhood education.

I cut my teeth as an educator working in an academically rigorous urban public charter school. After becoming disillusioned with the traditional early childhood model I founded Riverside Nature School, a nature-based preschool program inspired by best practices from the Forest School, Coyote Mentoring, and Reggio Emilia approaches.

Today I continue to lead innovative early childhood programming while helping others embrace similar models in their own settings.

I'm a firm believer that incorporating nature play into early childhood learning environments is the single best way to support the health, happiness, and holistic growth of both children and adults.

Whether you teach in a traditional early childhood setting, run your own childcare program, or are committed to simply doing the best you can for your own children, I can help you support your children's growth and development (and preserve your own sanity!) by getting outdoors and connecting to nature. 

I hope that you'll join me in the movement to make high quality nature play experiences available to all children.

 

Why Nature Play?

Early childhood education today is caught in the crosshairs of two damaging trends:

A misguided obsession with "academic readiness" and a dramatic decline in the amount of time children spend outdoors. 

Taken together, these two trends are a recipe for disaster. It's no wonder that children and educators alike are struggling. Embracing nature play allows us to shift the balance toward more developmentally appropriate learning models, enhancing student outcomes and minimizing burnout for educators. 

 

"Kindergarten is the new first grade..."

"Kindergarten is the new first grade..."

It's no secret that the expectations being placed on our youngest learners have shifted noticeably in recent years. High-pressure early childhood education is unfortunately the new normal. Play-based learning and developmentally appropriate practices have fallen by the wayside in the rush to comply with standardized testing requirements and the intense focus on "kindergarten readiness." Despite numerous studies indicating that children under the age of seven should be spending more time in authentic play-based learning and less time in direct instruction, we're seeing the opposite trend happening here in the United States, and children and educators alike are suffering. 

We're demanding that young children "sit still and pay attention" for greater and greater portions of their day,  yet the decline in outdoor free play means that too many children today are entering school with bodies and minds that are not physically prepared for learning. This inhibits the child's ability to learn, distracts other students, and requires teachers to spend more time and effort addressing the development of basic skills that traditionally would have arisen outside of the classroom during extended periods of unstructured play with other children. 


Children today are spending less time outdoors than ever before... and the consequences are dire.

Children today are spending less time outdoors than ever before... and the consequences are dire.

The combination of increasing academic demands, more scheduled extracurricular activities, parental anxiety, and a dramatic rise in the amount of time spent on electronic devices has led to a generation of young children who rarely spend time outdoors.

At the same time, rates of childhood obesity and ADHD are skyrocketing, as are diagnoses of sensory processing, emotional, and behavioral disorders. Teachers report that children are having more trouble than ever sitting still and paying attention in class, and occupational therapists are noting marked decreases in children's balance, strength, and endurance. We hear about children lacking the gross and fine motor skills crucial for success, from the ability to hold a pencil properly to the trunk strength needed to sit up straight on the carpet. We see children so overstimulated by loud, colorful classrooms that they suffer from anxiety and are unable to focus.

Experts agree that "Nature Deficit Disorder"  and the decline of early childhood nature play are serious contributing factors to these conditions, all of which translate to challenges in the classroom.


Sometimes the simplest solutions really are the best...

Sometimes the simplest solutions really are the best...

When struggling students and burned out educators start to be the norm, it's clear that something isn't working. The good news is that in the majority of situations, some simple, common-sense tweaks are all it takes to get joyful, developmentally appropriate learning back on track.

Going back to basics and getting children outdoors on a regular basis to participate in nature-based play has a number of core benefits, including:

  • Higher long-term academic achievement and executive functioning as a result of the self-control and problem-solving practiced through play. 
  • Lower rates of behavioral problems and attention deficit disorders - as Forest Kindergarten expert Erin Kenny says, "children cannot bounce off the walls if we take away the walls.”
  • Improved gross and fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and balance as a result of frequent, vigorous outdoor activity. 
  • Greater independence and self-confidence stemming from frequent opportunities to learn what their bodies are capable of and to assess risk through play.

And children aren't the only ones who benefit! Just like their students, educators who spend more time outdoors report feeling happier and more relaxed. Better yet, they're also more enthusiastic about their work and more innovative in their teaching strategies. 

If this sounds good to you (and really, how could it not), let's explore how I can work with you to bring the power of nature play to your early childhood program. 


Nature Play Infographics

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