These articles, videos, and toolkits offer valuable resources and insights on how to prioritize accessible practices, address individual needs, and create equitable opportunities for learning and participation. Topics include designing accessible outdoor play spaces, digital accessibility, disability rights, impacts of nature-based learning for students with disabilities, outdoor education and programs, diverse perspectives, and more. Please share feedback, questions, and additional resources with us by writing to eePRO@naaee.org. Like all of the resource lists in our Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion pages, this list is fluid and will be updated often, so please check back for updates.
A Note about Language
We recommend using language that individuals and communities prefer when referring to themselves and using person-first and identity-centered language when possible. Some of the resources listed here include terms that some people are now moving away from, including “special needs.” We know that language is constantly changing, and we are committed to ensuring support for students with disabilities and equitable access to high-quality education.
"Disability and Inclusion: Making Outdoor Play Accessible" (article): This post provides tips and strategies for designing inclusive and accessible outdoor spaces.
“How the First of Its Kind Autism Nature Trail Aims to Make the Outdoors More Accessible” (article): Lonely Planet writer Lynn Brown shares the story of how three women brought the idea of creating a formal nature space for children on the spectrum. This led to a collaboration between the women, a scientist, and park officials building the Autism Nature Trail in Letchworth State Park in Castile, New York.
"Pullman School District—Jefferson Elementary Outdoor Learning Lab" (blog post): This post describes accessible design by SPVV Landscape Architects.
Alt Text as Poetry (website): Use resources on this website to explore how to write alt text that helps create more welcoming and accessible online communities. This project is a collaboration between artists Bojana Coklyat and Shannon Finnegan, supported by Eyebeam and the Disability Visibility Project.
"Website Accessibility with Heather Nelson" (audio and article): In this Food Solutions New England Conversation, FSNE intern Heather Nelson and Shane Rogers, communication director for FSNE, chat about website accessibility.
Disability Rights and Environmental Justice
"Eco-Ableism" (podcast episode): Disability Rights Florida hosts a discussion on the You First podcast about accessibility, from climate change solutions to engaging with the outdoors and nature. Guests are Elizabeth Wright and Syren Nagakyrie. Wright is a writer, activist, Australian Paralympic Medalist, and founder and editor of Conscious Being. Nagakyrie, is a writer, activist, and founder and director of Disabled Hikers.
“Our Fight for Disability Rights—and Why We’re Not Done Yet” (video): Judith Heumann candidly and, at times, humorously recounts her experience with discrimination and the struggle to become a licensed teacher.
Impacts of Nature-Based Learning
“The Benefits of a Therapeutic Nature Education Intervention for Children with ADHD” (thesis): The purpose of this paper was to investigate "the outcome of an outdoor lesson intervention that contains experiential outdoor engagement with nature as an alternative treatment for students with ADHD."
"Nature-Based Learning for Students with Disabilities" (research article): How do nature-based learning methods benefit students with disabilities? This paper explores nature-based learning's potential to benefit students with special education needs.
"Nature Is the Best Way to Nurture Pupils with Special Educational Needs" (article): Read this article to learn how environmental education boosts well-being for students with special education needs.
"Different Abilities and Possibilities" (blog post): Riveredge Nature Center creates an inclusive and accessible internship.
Guidelines for Writing About People With Disabilities (Fact Sheet): This fact sheet offers recommendations for respectfully portraying individuals with disabilities. The guidelines emphasize using accurate, neutral, and objective language.
Outdoor Education and Programs
Best Practices for Inclusive Camps (book): This book provides a comprehensive review of outdoor programs for persons with disabilities, and inclusive practices.
"Can Outdoor Schooling Work for Everyone?" (video): PBS News Hour's Hari Sreenivasan interviews Kate Gardoqui, educator and senior associate with Great Schools Partnership, about creative solutions to addressing equity challenges in outdoor schooling.
"Creating Inclusive Naturalized Outdoor Play Environments" (research article): Read about current findings on accessibility, usability, and social interactions in outdoor play, and research gaps on naturalized environments.
"Encouraging Creative Play and Learning in Natural Environments" (book review): Natural Start Alliance reviews Nature and Young Children: Encouraging Creative Play and Learning in Natural Environments, a user-friendly book offering guidance on a range of topics.
"Happy Hands, Happy Hearts: Forest Day Learning at the New Mexico School for the Deaf" (article): This Natural Start Alliance story features "Forest Day Learning," a place-based and deaf/hard-of-hearing education program that takes place outdoors.
"Inclusion in the Outdoor Classroom" (blog post): eePRO member Susan Lancey details the benefits of providing a natural environment for children with disabilities.
PlayGarden Inclusion Toolkit (toolkit): PlayGarden compiled stories and strategies, divided into five sections: parks and playgrounds, after-school sports and extracurricular activities, museums and zoos, and inclusive group play, art, cooking, and music activities.
Making Outdoor Programs Accessible (book): This book goes over how to create accessible outdoor programs, plan for inclusion, form partnerships, and support accommodations and adaptations.
“Blind Birdwatcher Sees with Sound in Colombia” (article): This article, written by Michelle Begue, shares the experience of a blind professional birder who enjoys the symphony of bird calls.
“How a Blind Astronomer Found a Way to Hear the Stars” (video): In this TED Talk, Wanda Diaz Merced shares how she developed a way to represent complex data about our universe as sound.
Jack Catalano (Instagram profile): Jack Catalano is a Neurodiversity and Gender Affirming Public School Teacher in New York City supporting students with disabilities.
“Whatever You Do Don’t Call Me Differently Abled” (article): Elizabeth Wright explains why terms like "differently abled," "special," and "inspirational" raises certain concerns.
Related to Nature-Based Schools
"Member Spotlight: Imua Inclusion Preschool" (article): Imua Inclusion Preschool focuses on providing inclusive nature-based education through outdoor activities, nature walks, gardening, and hands-on exploration.
"Member Spotlight: Frazer Center's Child Development Program" (article): The Frazer Center's Child Development Program prioritizes creating an inclusive environment where children with disabilities can learn and grow.
"Navigating the Implications of 'Fit' for Children in Nature-Based Preschools" (article): Former Director of Education for Tiny Trees Preschool Rachel Franz advises how to assess the fit between a child and a nature-based preschool.
"Ways the Forest School Approach Can Help Kids with Autism Grow" (article): Strategies such as sensory-friendly spaces, communication aids, and collaboration with professionals to support children with autism.
"What Young Learners Really Need to Learn" (blog post): This Natural Start Alliance blog post features The Whole Child Podcast: Changing the Conversation About Education and the "Early Childhood Education: Balancing Expectations and What Young Learners Really Need" podcast episode.
Strategies, Lessons, and Activities
"Activities Recommended for Children with Special Needs" (Pinterest image): A list of nature-based art activities for children with special needs.
"Connecting Students with Special Needs to the Environment" (article): A compilation of activities, tips, resources, and websites about outdoor education and students with special needs.
“Instructional and Environmental Strategies for Special Populations—Strategies for Students with Physical and Cognitive Disabilities” (resource collection): A resource list of strategies for educators to implement in the classroom environment, provided by Training & Technical Assistance Centers (TTAC) Online.
PlayGarden Lessons (resource collection): Add this valuable collection of lessons provided by PlayGarden to your educator toolkit for creating accessible and inclusive lessons.