Educating Children Outdoors (ECO)


ECO is a standards-based nature immersion program that works in collaboration with public school teachers and their students. ECO’s goal is to help children and their schools to develop a lasting relationship with the natural world and foster a sense of place and stewardship in our local Vermont communities. ECO works with schools on a weekly and biweekly basis to help meet Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards outdoors while introducing children to the natural community right outside their classroom.  We aim to meet each classroom community’s needs for learning outdoors.

By using city parks, public lands, and other local green spaces, ECO helps teachers get their students engaged in natural inquiry-based learning. The surrounding environment becomes a co-teacher as we explore the fields for insects and build bear dens in the forest. ECO capitalizes on the opportunities of learning outdoors that support social and emotional learning such as group dynamics, work projects, learning to take care of others and how to take care of our environment.

Teachers, students, and ECO staff spend two to four hours weekly exploring a forest, wetland or field, playing games, engaging the senses, journaling at sitting spots, sharing in a community circle around a fire, and engaging in cooperative learning through guided discovery. We practice these core routines continuously throughout the school year.

Teacher Resources

  • *NEW* Educating Children Outdoors: Lessons in Nature-Based Learning by Amy Butler

    Our new book by former NBNC Director of Education Amy Butler!

  • 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)

What We Offer

  • Co-teaching and leading your students in the field during the school day.
  • Logistics for getting out the door (clothing, gear, food, water, first aid, and communication with the school).
  • Standardized lesson plans. All lessons are standardized to the Common Core and NGSS.
  • Pre-teaching ideas and suggestions with seasonal themes, games, activities, classroom extensions, and stories.
  • Safety and emergency protocols needed to be safe in the outdoors.
  • ECO staff conduct a site assessment with teachers and school officials to determine the best places to learn on your school campus.

"We are called to assist the Earth to heal her wounds and, in the process, heal our own—indeed, to embrace the whole of creation in all its diversity, beauty and wonder."

—Wangari Maathai

North Branch Nature Center

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

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