ECO Institute


T he ECO Institute provides week-long, nature immersion courses for teachers, assistants, and administrators.  The Institute is inquiry-based, outdoor learning through intensive experiential lessons, activities, and discussions.

Led by NBNC staff and veteran public-school teachers, 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.

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 five 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!

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


ECO Level 1

For Early Childhood Educators
July 15 - 19, 2019

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.

Please check back this winter
for registration information

ECO Level 1

For Elementary/Middle School Educators
June 24 - 28, 2019

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 the management of hazards within an outdoor classroom space.
  • Develop the training to start a half to full day nature immersion programs tailored to their students’ needs.

Please check back this winter
for registration information

ECO Level 2

July 29 - August 2, 2019

Eco Level 2 Participants must have completed ECO Level 1.
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.

Please check back this winter
for registration information

ECO Institute
at National Conferences


InBloom, Kittery Maine

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Eyes of the World Discovery Center

InBloom, 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, Vermont 05602
(802) 229-6206

Office Open Monday-Friday from 9 am to 4 pm
Trails Open 24/7