ECO: Educating Children Outdoors
Working together with public schools to build lasting relationships with our environment.

Forest Preschool 0 Forest Preschool Picture 1 Forest Preschool Picture 2 Forest Preschool Picture 3 Forest Preschool Picture 4


Core routines are embedded into our ECO schedule and provide the walls of our outdoor classroom. These core routines are practices for learning in nature that help to cultivate a lasting relationship with the natural world and foster a sense of place. *We would like to acknowledge Jon Young, Ellen Haas and Evan McGown for inspiring our use of the core routines through their book,Coyote’s Guide to Connecting with Nature.

Morning Circle

The drum beats out the rhythm as we sing our opening song together, gently signaling students that it is time to form a circle for our morning meeting.  The talking stick is passed around the circle and when it comes to us we share a nature note or something we are thankful for.  This is also the time where teachers will introduce what the day will look like.

Nature Museum

This is a place in classroom that serves as an area for students to explore aspects of the natural world using their senses and ask questions.  Field guides, feathers, leaves, bones, plant materials, seeds, or rocks can found in the nature museum. These items may change seasonally or with a new unit of study. Nature has a place in the classroom.


Let’s move our bodies and use our senses to play some games! This is a great time to release energy, practice gross motor skills and apply some basic science concepts through creative movement. Playing tag to learn predator prey relationships or coming together for a group challenge are some of our favorite games.


We take care of ourselves outdoors by eating a hearty snack and drinking warm tea we have made over the fire. As we sit in a community circle a teacher tells a story in the oral tradition or provides a read aloud. The story can inspire the lesson of the day or help to make classroom connections.

Engaging the Senses

With our body as a guide, we walk like a fox, listen like a deer, and see through the eyes of an owl. We gather information through these senses in games, short activities and it then becomes our routine as we go about parts of our ECO day.

Guided Discovery

It’s time to have some fun learning! A standards-based (NGSS, Common Core) lesson is introduced to the students and they set off to build, explore, gather, create or record. Back in the classroom, teachers expound upon and assess student learning from the field. See an ECO lesson plan

Sit Spot

Each student selects their own special place that they will return to throughout the year.  This is where we take some time to reflect upon what we’ve learned and observed during our ECO time.  We often will write in our journals at our sit spots.  Student’s journals become one way that teachers can assess what their students have learned during ECO.

Closing Circle

Encircled by hemlock and beech trees, students and teachers gather together to reflect on our learning and to give a quiet thank you to the forest that hosts us for ECO. The drum beats and we begin our journey back inside from our outdoor classroom.


North Branch Nature Center
713 Elm Street, Montpelier VT 05602
(802) 229-6206

Open Monday - Friday, 9am to 4pm
Trails open every day
Directions to the Nature Center
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