NBNC citizen science
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 2023 Offerings

(Click each title to expand)

ECO Institute: Nature-Based Routines for Outdoor Classrooms

Instructors: Ken Benton & Guests
For Elementary and Middle School
Educators |
July 10-14 | $1300 ($1750 with three graduate credits)

More Info & Registration

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 Elementary and Middle School
Educators |
July 24-28 | $1300 ($1750 with three graduate credits)

More Info & Registration

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.


Educating Children Outdoors for Early Childhood Educators

Instructors: Arianna Dayharsh & Jenna Plouffe
For PreK & Kindergarten Educators
$1300 ($1750 with three graduate credits)

More Info & Registration

This course applies early childhood learning curricula beyond the classroom, while immersing in and participating with nature as a learning partner. The course provides inquiry-based learning through intensive experiential lessons, provocations and discussions held entirely outdoors. Participants will:

  • Build the core routines of an outdoor classroom to feel competent managing their own nature immersion curriculum outdoors.
  • Practice conducting site and risk assessments and practice safety protocols within the context of an outdoor classroom.
  • Address potential logistical challenges in starting a program.
  • Share songs, games, stories and resources to support a nature immersion curriculum.
  • Provide time for collaboration among participants to create a project/program of their own.
  • Engage in dialogue around methods of connecting children with their natural communities in order to support a nature pedagogy. 

Vermont Master Naturalist for Educators

Instructors: Sean Beckett & Alicia Daniel
For Middle and High School Educators
June 26-30 | $1300 ($1750
 with three graduate credits)

More Info & Registration

This unique collaboration between NBNC and Vermont Master Naturalist is a place-based, integrated training in interpreting the local landscape and applying that training to the middle and high school classroom and curriculum. This course will:

  • Practice identifying characteristic species and natural communities that contribute to Vermont’s signature natural heritage.
  • Recognize and interpret patterns and processes in the local ecological landscape.
  • Practice activities, tools and routines for incorporating nature 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.
  • Cultivate relationships with educators and conservation professionals to enrich student engagement in the field and the classroom.

** 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.

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