Starting a Nature School from Scratch | eePRO @ NAAEE

The home of environmental education professional development

Starting a Nature School from Scratch

Hi there!

My name is Emma Huvos, and I'm the founder of Riverside Nature School (a small, nature-based early childhood program located in Charles Town, WV) and Wonderkin (a monthly subscription box designed to support early childhood development by getting kids outdoors and connected to nature).

I recently blogged about my experience starting Riverside Nature School -- you can check out the full post at -- and will be available here through Wednesday 10/17 to share more about my experience and answer any questions you may have!

Looking forward to getting to know you all :)

Hello! I am interested in the possibilities of a nature-based early childhood program in Tucson, Arizona. However, I have been unable to find programs that highlight nature-based pedagogy. Any suggestions for how to attempt such a program, or even partially, given the desert heat?

Hi Layne!

This is EXACTLY what our Summer Institute on Nature & Place-based ECE is about up here in Prescott, AZ. Along with the week-long Institute, participants get a mentor for an entire year to help them with their project (in your case, starting a nature-based ECE program). I highly recommend checking out this opportunity as it sounds like it might help you work through some of these inquiries!

I also want you to know that the Arizona Association for Environmental Education is in the process of building an ECE working group & support network for ECE educators wanting EE & nature-based learning guidance for our really specific (and challenging!) environment! I would keep an eye on their website or maybe subscribe to their quarterly newsletter for more information as that develops--it's a great way to connect with other nature-based educators in the state! (news section)

Meanwhile, if you're looking for programs nearby that do various NBL programming in the desert, I suggest checking out Ochoa Community Schools & Manzo Elementary (which both have amazing garden-based and some native-plant based programs/pedagogy at their schools) as well as talking to the folks in charge of the ECE programming at the Sonoran Desert Museum in Tuscon. I might also recommend getting in touch with the folks at the Phoenix Zoo who do city-wide Nature Play programming there (very hot & desert-y!)--give them a call and ask for Liesl Pimental--she's amazing.

Hope this helps, and feel free to email me with more questions:

You are fortunate to have Ellen's program at Prescott for great resources as you start your nature-based program - they run a fantastic course and their program has an incredible reputation! I'd also like to mention the Eastern Region Association of Forest and Nature Schools (, a nonprofit dedicated to nature-based teacher training and support. ERAFANS offers a five-day Nature-Based Teacher Certification course in intro and intermediate levels. It's an amazing foundation for educators and childcare providers who are looking for best practices in nature-based ECE, complete with observations of local programs. We also offer online courses that examine various topics in the field, including a multi-part series about staring a nature-based program. There are many paths to get to your nature preschool, so hang in there! We're all here to help!

Hi Laura!

Yes, great you asked! We're actually in the process of developing three foundational PD modules this year and hope to release them this Fall. Then, continue rolling out the modules in to more advanced areas from there throughout the next two years.

If you shoot me an email at I can add you to our "events & updates" contact list. (I promise we only contact you regarding new nature & place-based ECE professional development opportunities--so no spam or monthly things!) :)


Hi Emma
I found this blog post very interesting. How and what you have shared about a day at Riverside Nature School in West Virginia, appears to provide meaningful, thoughtful and engaging learning experiences for young children. I genuinely appreciate the breakdown along with the details for the day. The opening and closing circles allowing children to have a voice and feel a sense of community sounds like a beautiful way to begin and end their day. Mindfulness strategies will empower children to develop not only observation skills but also how to be quiet with themselves which in turn will provide them with a tool to use during future life stressful moments. The weather tracking routine would be something I would love to see, do you by chance have a video of this routine? Or could you share more details of what this might look like on a specific day? Helping children to appreciate what they have is priceless in my opinion for living a quality life and not letting stuff be our guide for happiness. Thank you for providing such resources that I can now go a little more deepen into a variety of topics. Story of the Day, be it verbal or written is a great way to connect the children’s experiences to words and possible pictures. I am such a fan of Claire Warden, it was nice you share about the Floorbooks. The beauty of all these routines is these promising practices could be used by all educators to enhance their program.