In Santa Barbara, children are growing through gardening at local schools sponsored by Explore Ecology, singing in the rain at Storytellers Children’s Center, making mud pies at Tucker’s Grove Park with the Wilderness Youth Project and forts at Rocky Nook Park with Wild Roots. Come to learn from cutting-edge educators who are redefining what’s possible in early childhood education.
The annual In Bloom Early Childhood and Elementary Education Conference will be hosted by Antioch University Santa Barbara (AUSB) on November 3, 2018, at the Orfalea Family Children’s Center at The University of California Santa Barbara, and the Isla Vista School. Recently retired AUNE professor emeritus, David Sobel, worked with the George B. Storer Foundation to start and fund the bi-coastal conference series three years ago. This will be the fourth annual conference. This year the conference expands its scope to include elementary education content as well as early childhood. Antioch University will host four In Bloom conferences during the 2018-2019 school year, which are open to the public as well as alumni and students. “The conference series is a great way to bring all of the Antioch campuses together,” says Kelly Pena, who has worked on the conference for the past three years. Tamara Thompson of Orfalea, and Mallory Meyer, an Antioch student in the NBECE Certificate Program, have also been instrumental members of the conference planning committee.
The one-day conference in Santa Barbara includes a keynote by Ellen Doris, Chair of the Education Department at Antioch University New England (AUNE), on how teachers can help children connect with nature. Also featured will be workshops such as, Bilingual Forest School: Our Daily Rhythm with Wild Roots bilingual preschool teachers, Chelsea Adams and Jenn Sepulveda; Hay Straw Bale Gardening With Trudy Adare of UC Master Gardeners of Santa Barbara; and Building Instruments Utilizing Natural Elements and Recycling Materials with Agustin Pimentel and Alejandro Mendez of TRIBU. The day will also include a healthy lunch and an afternoon musical performance.
Why nature-based education?
“To inspire people to appreciate and use the natural world to educate our children. The social interaction of children while they play is so crucial; they explore leadership, role playing, problem solving and imagination! We want to give children opportunities to play and learn outside by encouraging and facilitating opportunities that earlier generations took for granted,” says Marianne D’Emidio-Caston, Chair of the AUSB Education Program and a crucial coordinator of In Bloom.
With the Nature-Based Early Childhood Education Certificate Program (courses that can also be taken for elective credit in the MA in Education Program), Antioch aims to bring all types of classrooms outdoors by training educators to incorporate nature-based learning into their curriculums. Forest kindergartens and other nature-inspired early childhood education programs, which originated in Scandinavia, have been popping up all over the world. These programs are becoming more and more popular as families recognize the developmental benefits of outdoor education.