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

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Professional Development

ECO Summer Institute
Weeklong nature immersion courses for teachers, assistants, and administrators.

eco institute
Photo by Sadie Fischbeck

The ECO Institute provides inquiry-based, outdoor learning through intensive experiential lessons, activities, and discussions. Led by expert NBNC staff and partners, participants will move beyond the classroom and engage with nature as a learning partner. Participants will develop a nature pedagogy and learn to incorporate VELS, NGSS, and Common Core into their design of nature immersion curricula.

*Graduate credit is offered through Castleton University and the Castleton Center for Schools.

2018 Courses

ECO Level I
(for elementary and middle school educators)
June 25 - 29, 2018

This course introduces educators to the core routines that structure a successful outdoor classroom experience. Participants will:

  • Engage in ECO’s standards-based lessons that include topics such as forest classroom management, mathematical thinking through stick exploration, teaching with fire, and STEM outdoors.

  • Learn how to conduct risk benefit assessments and manage hazards within an outdoor classroom space.

  • Develop a knowledge base and skill set to start a half to full day nature immersion program tailored to their students’ needs.


ECO Level I
(for early childhood educators
July 9 - 13, 2018

This course introduces participants to the core routines that structure a successful outdoor learning and play experience. Participants will:

  • Learn outdoor classroom management skills, how to conduct risk benefit assessments, and manage hazards within an outdoor classroom space.

  • Explore foundational math and literacy skill development in nature with nature. Learn how to partner with the natural world to bring the curriculum outdoors and nature indoors while  meeting Vermont Early Learning Standards. 

  • Develop a knowledge base and skill set to incorporate nature immersion into your program in a way that meets the needs of your students.


ECO Level II
*participants must have completed ECO Level I
July 23 - 27, 2018

This course is designed for educators who have an established routine of learning and exploring outdoors, who are seeking a deeper understanding of their natural landscape. Participants will:

  • Develop a foundation of natural history knowledge through immersive study of bird language, tree and plant identification, wild edible preparation, geology, and basic forest forensics.

  • Practice techniques for achieving a deeper level of inquiry and observation in nature.

  • Learn hands-on methods for embedding this knowledge into outdoor lessons.

  • Build routines to deepen your class’s sense of place within the outdoor learning environment.


ECO Institute Background and Philosophy

The ECO Institute has been facilitating outdoor professional development courses for teachers and educators since the summer of 2013. We have trained and worked alongside over 100 teachers who strongly believe that nature has a place in the heart of education. Our work is inspired by the nature kindergartens found in Scandinavia, Forest Schools in the UK, the nature based mentoring movement, and the teachers and children we work with.

In the past 5 years we have seen an incredible increase in the desire to move beyond the classroom walls into natural spaces to help students develop independence, learn social and emotional skills, and cultivate caring for others and the natural world. As a result, nature based education conferences are flourishing, teachers are blogging about their Forest Fridays, and nature based preschools are thriving. The mission to reconnect children and adults to the natural world is valued and growing!

ECO Institute at National Education Conferences:

In Bloom Kittery Maine
Saturday, April 21, 2018
Eyes of the World Discovery Center

In Bloom Brattleboro Vermont
Saturday, May 19th, 2018
The Academy School

Natural Wonder Summit
June 1-3, 2018
Woodson Branch Nature School, Marshall North Carolina


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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