Antioch University New England Awarded $202,000 in Grant Funding by the George B. Storer Foundation

AUNE continues to develop nature-based childhood education program and research the impacts of nature preschool

Antioch University New England (AUNE) was recently awarded two grants by the George B. Storer Foundation totaling $202,000, which will be used to continue developing nature-based childhood education and preschool programs for educators in 2015 and 2016. The funds will also be used to continue AUNE’s ongoing research on the many impacts and methods of nature-based early childhood education.

“Many parents and educators are interested in the physical development and social and emotional growth that are fostered in nature-based early childhood programs. This is a shift away from the more narrow focus on early learning reading and math skills found in more academically-oriented preschools and kindergartens,” said David Sobel, the project manager, senior faculty in AUNE’s education department and director of its Center for Place-based Education. Few professional development training opportunities exist for teachers who want to “naturalize” their programs.,” The grant funds are being used to fill this gap.

AUNE is now training current and upcoming teachers to launch nature-based learning initiatives or incorporate them into existing curriculums. The emergence of nature preschools and forest kindergartens in North America has generated much interest amongst parents and educators who have a desire to overcome what Richard Louv has called children’s “nature-deficit disorder.”

One professional development avenue the grants, which AUNE has received for the past two years as well, will support are the annual In Bloom: Promising Practices in Nature-based Early Childhood conferences. AUNE will also support tuition scholarships, on-site professional development for early childhood centers throughout New England and work with local nonprofit and parent education groups. Project organizers hope to expand these programs for educators to urban centers throughout the Northeast and on the west coast.

AUNE, along with accolades for its education programming, also has extensive resources in environmental and sustainability issues through its Center for Climate Preparedness and Community Resilience, and plans to dive deeper into the research around nature-based early education programs to explore if and why children who complete nature-based programs are more prepared than those who learn via traditional early childhood experiences.

“For example, many teachers and parents claim that their children have greater natural science knowledge, are more observant, have more perseverance, and are more curious about science topics,” Sobel said. “Is there a metric that we could use to assess this claim? We aim to find out.”

Projects supported by the grants began July 1, and will continue through the end of 2016. To learn more about AUNE’s developing nature-based early childhood program or its nature preschool research, please contact Sobel at 603-283-2318 or [email protected]. The Education Department at AUNE, which boasts a 90 percent employment rate for graduates, offers master’s degree programs for both pre-service and in-service teachers. The Integrated Learning and Waldorf programs train teachers for positions in public, progressive independent and Waldorf schools. The program offers elementary, early childhood and special education certification.

About the George B. Storer Foundation

The mission of the George B. Storer Foundation is to promote an ecologically rich and economically prosperous future for current and future generations. We believe in protecting vital natural resources that support healthy economies, and in equipping and empowering future generations to be strong leaders, engaged citizens and good stewards of those resources. We pursue our mission by focusing our grantmaking in three strategic areas: Early Childhood Education; Wyoming Communities & Landscapes; and Conservation Economics. Learn more at storerfoundation.org.

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