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Educator Institutes 1

"I wish I could store this week in a bottle and take it out this winter to drink in the richness of this experience!”
- ECO Institute Participant, 2018

with North Branch Nature Center

— The Wetherell Family

Educator Institutes

Educator Institutes at NBNC


O ur Educator Institutes provide week-long nature immersion courses for teachers, assistants, and administrators.  Our institutes feature 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.


Summer 2022 Offerings


ECO Institute:
Nature-Based Routines for Outdoor Classrooms

Instructors: Ken Benton & Guests
For PreK - 6th grade educators

August 8-12

This introductory ECO (Educating Children Outdoors) Institute course acquaints participants with the routines and protocols that structure a successful outdoor learning and play experience. Participants will:

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

  • Learn how to conduct site assessments and how to manage hazards and risks within an outdoor classroom space.

  • Explore foundational math and literacy skills  in nature with nature. Learn how to partner with the natural world to bring the curriculum outdoors and nature indoors while meeting NGSS, Common Core and Vermont Early Learning Standards.

  • Build upon existing strengths and opportunities within a school community to support learning with nature.


ECO Institute:
Natural History Fundamentals for Educators

Instructors: Ken Benton & Guests
For PreK - 6th grade educators

June 27 - July 1

This course is a natural history deep dive tailored to the unique needs of teachers interested in building a greater familiarity with the environment in which they teach. Participants will:

  • Build a framework for viewing the land and its inhabitants that relieves the discomfort of not knowing how to identify everything.

  • Become familiar with common birds and their song, basic tree and plant identification, wild edible safety, geology, and stream ecology.

  • Practice seasonal lessons and routines that deepen a partnership with the land and align with NGSS and Common Core.

  • Practice strategies for bridging the gap between learning that takes place outdoors and in the classroom.


Institute for Educators

Instructors: Ken Benton & Sean Beckett
For 7th - 12th grade educators
July 25-29 2022

This week-long investigation of Vermont biodiversity is designed for those looking to incorporate nature-based concepts and activities across their curricula.
This course will:

  • Demonstrate frameworks for understanding and explaining biodiversity in the context of Vermont’s natural resources.
  • Introduce activities, tools and routines for incorporating biodiversity curriculum at the middle and high school level.
  • Explore alignment of biodiversity and nature-based curriculum with Next Generation Science Standards and Proficiency-based Learning.
  • Learn how biodiversity and climate change intersect on the Vermont landscape.
  • Engage with a core set of species and communities that represent Vermont’s signature natural heritage.

This course is part of NBNC's Biodiversity University seminar series

** All courses qualify for 3 graduate credits through Castleton University & Castleton Center for Schools. **

Financial Aid: Vermont residents are encouraged to apply for a VSAC Advancement Grant. Please contact us ([email protected]) to inquire about other financial aid options.

Cancellation Policy: While we realize that unexpected circumstances arise that are out of our control, NBNC cannot guarantee refunds for registrations cancelled within 30 days of the course.  If a cancellation occurs within this window, NBNC will, if possible, attempt to fill the space from our wait list and provide a full refund.

Purchase Orders: It is the participant’s responsibility to submit a purchase order request to their school immediately upon registration, and to provide a purchase order number to NBNC within 14 days of registration.

Please visit northbranchnaturecenter.org/covid for our most up-to-date policies and expectations around COVID-19.

More about Educator Institutes at NBNC

NBNC has been facilitating outdoor professional development courses for teachers and educators through its ECO Institute since 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. The mission to reconnect children and adults to the natural world is valued and growing!

Teacher Resources

  • Growing Benefits of Outdoor Learning (COVID-19 Position Statement - May 2021)

  • Outdoor Learning in Winter (COVID-19 Position Statement - December 2020)

  • Outdoor Learning in Summer (COVID-19 Position Statement - Summer 2020)

  • Safety and Healthy Risk Taking

  • Outdoor Learning in Cold Weather - We've Got This!

  • Risk Management in the Outdoors

  • Guided by the Why - Making Intentional Decisions in Nature Based Early Childhood Classrooms

  • Inside / Outside Nature Based Educators of New England

  • Natural Start Alliance: How to Start an Outdoor Classroom In Any School (Part 1)

  • Natural Start Alliance: How to Start an Outdoor Classroom In Any School (Part 2)


"Mother Earth needs us to keep our covenant. We will do this in courts, we will do this on our radio station,
and we will commit to our descendants to work hard to protect this land and water for them.
Whether you have feet, wings, fins, or roots, we are all in it together."

—Winona LaDuke

North Branch Nature Center

713 Elm Street
Montpelier, Vermont 05602
(802) 229-6206

Hours: Center Open Monday-Friday 9-4
Trails Open 24/7