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Essential Objectives

Course Syllabus

Revision Date: 17-Jul-24

Fall 2024 | EDU-2430-VO01 - Nature-Based Approaches in Early Childhood Education & Afterschool Programs

Online Class

Online courses take place 100% online via Canvas, without required in-person or Zoom meetings.

Location: Online
Credits: 3 (45 hours)
Day/Times: Meets online
Semester Dates: 09-03-2024 to 12-16-2024
Last day to drop without a grade: 09-16-2024 - Refund Policy
Last day to withdraw (W grade): 11-04-2024 - Refund Policy
Open Seats: 6 (as of 07-21-24 3:05 PM)
To check live space availability, Search for Courses.


April Zajko
View Faculty Credentials
View Faculty Statement
Hiring Coordinator for this course: Philip Crossman

Course Description

This course sets the foundation for nature-based early learning and activities by examining the principles, philosophical underpinnings, and practices of utilizing nature to enhance the development of the whole child. This course introduces students to the field of nature-based learning including its history, theories, benefits for children and the environment, program models, the teacher’s role, high quality practices, and regional resources.

Essential Objectives

1. Explore how nature-based learning integrates both early childhood education and environmental education principles.
2. Identify and distinguish between leading theories that impact the connections of children to nature, including diverse cultural perspectives.
3. Examine how methods and teaching practices of nature-based teaching differ from traditional approaches.
4. Articulate the developmental benefits of nature-based approaches and the positive impact that time outdoors has on children’s cognitive, physical, and social emotional development.
5. Articulate the ecological benefits of nature-based approaches that foster stewardship, sustainability, and reciprocity.
6. Discuss the role of risk in nature-based learning and how to incorporate a risk/benefit analysis when developing policies for the programs, staff, and facilities to ensure health and safety.
7. Apply best practices in nature-based learning and define the role of the teacher as a facilitator of learning.

Required Technology

More information on general computer and internet recommendations is available on the CCV IT Support page. https://support.ccv.edu/general/computer-recommendations/

Please see CCV's Digital Equity Statement (pg. 45) to learn more about CCV's commitment to supporting all students access the technology they need to successfully finish their courses.

Required Textbooks and Resources

*** This is a low cost ($50 or less) textbook or resource class. ***

This course uses one or more textbooks/books/simulations, along with free Open Educational Resources (OER) and/or library materials.

Fall 2024 textbook/book details will be available on 2024-05-20. On that date a link will be available below that will take you to eCampus, CCV's bookstore. The information provided there will be specific to this class. Please see this page for more information regarding the purchase of textbooks/books.

EDU-2430-VO01 Link to Textbooks for this course in eCampus.

For Open Educational Resources (OER) and/or library materials details, see the Canvas Site for this class.

The last day to use a Financial Aid Advance to purchase textbooks/books is the 3rd Tuesday of the semester. See your financial aid counselor at your academic center if you have any questions.



  • Reading assignments from required textbook

  • Weekly discussion forums

  • Multimedia presentations and resources

  • Weekly written assignments that synthesize course content

  • Inquiry-based research

  • Community Engagement project

  • Experiential nature project will be completed individually as a way to build their own personal connection with nearby nature.

  • Engaged and supportive learning community by active participation in weekly discussion forums. Remember, though this is an online course, your voice, experience, and viewpoint is an important part of our class community. Be sure to share your views in our weekly discussions!

Evaluation Criteria

30% Weekly Discussion Forums- every week there will be a discussion forum (15 x 2 points each)

50% Weekly Written Reflection- here will be TEN reflections (10 x 5 points each)

10% Community Engagement Project (due week 12)

10% Experiential Nature Project (due week 14)

Grading Criteria

CCV Letter Grades as outlined in the Evaluation System Policy are assigned according to the following chart:

A Less than 9893
A-Less than 9390
B+Less than 9088
B Less than 8883
B-Less than 8380
C+Less than 8078
C Less than 7873
C-Less than 7370
D+Less than 7068
D Less than 6863
D-Less than 6360
FLess than 60 
NPLess than 600

Weekly Schedule

Week/ModuleTopic  Readings  Assignments


Introduction to Nature-Based Learning


Read our textbook, Nature-Based Professional Practice Guidebook, pages 1-22 = Introduction & Summary of Practices


Read the article: Prochner, Larry (2021). Our Proud Heritage. Take It Outside: A History of Nature-Based Education. NAEYC: Young Children, Volume 76, Number 3.



Discussion Forum #1

Weekly Written Reflection #1



Theories and Perspectives on Nature-Based Learning


Read the article: “Guide to the Growing World of Nature-Based Learning” Retrieve at this link - https://www.childhoodbynature.com/guide-to-the-growing-world-of-nature-based-learning/

Read the article: Helen Tovey (2020). “Froebel’s Principles and Practice Today” Retrieve at this link - https://www.froebel.org.uk/training-and-resources/children-and-nature

Read the article: Claire Warden (2018). “Nature Pedagogy: A common thread connecting nature-based settings worldwide.” https://naturalstart.org/feature-stories/nature-pedagogy-common-thread-connecting-nature-based-settings-worldwide


Discussion Forum #2

Weekly Written Reflection #2



Methods and Teaching Practices in Nature-Based Learning


Read our textbook, Nature-Based Professional Practice Guidebook, pages 23-35

Read the booklet: “Early Childhood Outdoor Learning Booklet” by the Minnesota Department of Education, written by Anna Dutke, Jenny Hanlon, & Sheila Williams Ridge. Retrieve by going to this website and clicking on the first resource titled “Early Childhood Outdoor Learning Booklet”.



Discussion Forum #3

Weekly Written Reflection #3



Developmental Benefits of Nature-Based Approaches


Powers, A. L. & Ren, Q. (2018). “Nature –Based Play and Learning: A Literature Review” This resource is a literature review of 50 different research articles about the value of Nature-Based Play and Learning. This is an excellent resource when writing grants or explaining the benefits of nature-based learning to stakeholders.


Watch the video “Benefits of Teaching and Learning in Nature” by New Zealand’s Department of Conservation. Retrieve at this link:



Discussion Forum #4

Weekly Written Reflection #4



Personal Nature Connection & Environmental Identity


Read “Nature Connection Handbook” pages 1-14.

Watch the video: Discovering Your Environmental Identity


Watch the video: The Art of Environmental Stewardship


Read the essay by David Sobel, “Everyone Ought to Have a Ditch” https://magazine.communityworksinstitute.org/everyone-ought-to-have-a-ditch/


Discussion Forum #5

Weekly Written Reflection #5



Risk in Nature-Based Learning


Read our textbook, Nature-Based Professional Practice Guidebook, pages 47-61. Closely review the graphic on page 49, and consider the risk continuum from Overly controlled / Optimal / Out of Control

Read the article: Sandseter, E.B.H., (2007). Categorizing Risky Play – how can we identify risk-taking in children’s play? European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 15(2), 237-252

Read the article: Stop Telling Kids to “Be Careful” and What To Say Instead by Backwoods Mama, consider printing theInfographic: What to Say to Kids Instead of “Be Careful”

Infographic: Dynamically Assessing Risk printable


Discussion Forum #6

Weekly Written Reflection #6



Best Practices & Learning Environments


Read our textbook, Nature-Based Professional Practice Guidebook, pages 37-45.

Watch the webinar recording by the Children’s Nature Network: “Affirming Children’s Voices in Early Childhood Nature-Based Initiatives” that explores both research approaches and educational practice to affirm the right of children to participate in matters relevant to them. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DpupHK-OVCk


Discussion Forum #7

Weekly Written Reflection #7



Defining the Teacher's Role in Nature Based Learning


Read our textbook, Nature-Based Professional Practice Guidebook, pages -Role of the Teacher in a Child-Led Classroom (p.30)

Read the article by the Alliance for Childhood (2009). Crisis in the Kindergarten: Why Children Need to Play in School.



Discussion Forum #8

Weekly Written Reflection #8



Nature Immersions & Afterschool Program Models


Listen to the Forest Educator Podcast by Ricardo Sierra. Look for the episode, “Forest Educator Spotlight: After School Programs” - https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/forest-educator-spotlight-after-school-programs/id1691969065?i=1000621374265

Read the article, “Forest Days Evaluation Report Documents Benefits and Key Ingredients for Success” by Natural Start Alliance 2017 - https://naturalstart.org/bright-ideas/forest-days-evaluation-report-documents-benefits-and-key-ingredients-success


Discussion Forum #9

Weekly Written Reflection #9



Stewardship & Sustainability Practices


Fostering Stewardship in School - Review the LAUNCH Eco Toolkits created by Grades of Green. Select one toolkit to read closely and follow the prompt in the discussion forum https://gradesofgreen.org/launch-toolkits-educator-led/


Discussion Forum #10



Equity & Inclusion in Nature Based Learning


Read our textbook, Nature-Based Professional Practice Guidebook, pages 69-71.

Read the article & watch the video “Equity in Outdoor Play” with Rachel Larimore at this website - https://blog.kaplanco.com/ii/equity-in-outdoor-play

Read the article, Beck, S. L. (2018). Developing and writing a diversity statement. Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching. Retrieved at this link: https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/developing-and-writing-a-diversity-statement


Discussion Forum #11

Weekly Written Reflection #10 - Equity & Inclusion Statement



Community Engagement for Nature Based Learning


Read our textbook, Nature-Based Professional Practice Guidebook, pages 71-73.

Watch the webinar recording by the Children’s Nature Network: “Making the Case: Community Engagement for Equitable Access to Nature” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rBMcuprKvlo


Discussion Forum #12

Community Engagement Project



Administration & Policies and Procedures


Read our textbook, Nature-Based Professional Practice Guidebook, pages 63-68

Review the policies and procedures for a nature based program.


Discussion Forum #13

Prep for Experiential Nature Project



Advocacy for Nature Based Learning


Self-select one advocacy article to read on a topic that you are passionate about. There are several advocacy tools and resources to choose from at these two links:




Discussion Forum #14

Experiential Nature Project



Wrapping Up the Semester


Finish reading any sections of our textbook you missed during the semester.


Discussion Forum #15

Final Deadline for any missing assignments


Attendance Policy

Regular attendance and participation in classes are essential for success in and are completion requirements for courses at CCV. A student's failure to meet attendance requirements as specified in course descriptions will normally result in a non-satisfactory grade.

  • In general, missing more than 20% of a course due to absences, lateness or early departures may jeopardize a student's ability to earn a satisfactory final grade.
  • Attending an on-ground or synchronous course means a student appeared in the live classroom for at least a meaningful portion of a given class meeting. Attending an online course means a student posted a discussion forum response, completed a quiz or attempted some other academically required activity. Simply viewing a course item or module does not count as attendance.
  • Meeting the minimum attendance requirement for a course does not mean a student has satisfied the academic requirements for participation, which require students to go above and beyond simply attending a portion of the class. Faculty members will individually determine what constitutes participation in each course they teach and explain in their course descriptions how participation factors into a student's final grade.

Participation Expectations

To earn full participation points students:


  • Read the assigned material and demonstrate an understanding of those resources in your written assignments and posts. Readings and resources should be cited using APA format.

  • All written assignments must be your own writing, reflecting your thoughts about how the course material impacts your understanding.

  • Students are encouraged to synthesize the course content and think about how this new information from the weekly module could be applied in a real world setting. Relevant and meaningful applications of the course assignments will help students feel more prepared for the workforce.

  • Guidelines for assignments will be clearly articulated by your instructor and you are encouraged to ask questions if you need additional support.

Weekly Discussion Forums:

  • Discussion forums require students to engage with one another to digest the course content and reflect on how others see things differently.

  • Students will write their original post in response to the prompt provided.

  • Discussion forum posts need to be substantive and demonstrate college-level writing. A substantive post is well-developed, a minimum of 150 words, and references the reading or another appropriate source.

  • There are TEN discussion forums during this 15 week course. These forums are designed for meaningful and engaged learning. The prompts are formulated in a way that students are encouraged to give specific ideas for how to implement one aspect of curriculum development.

  • Full participation points for discussion forums requires you to provide 'feedback replies' for at least TWO other students each week in the Discussion Forum. Through your replies to other students' work, students convey additional knowledge, extend the conversation, provide an alternative view, and give suggestions. or note something that resonated with them. Language should be somewhat formal and professional. Cite all resources using APA format.

  • You are welcome to post early and/or more frequently as your schedule allows, but you will not receive full credit for participation if you do not meet these minimum requirements and or due dates.

As a positive community of learners, your instructor expects you to:

  • Listen to others responses in the discussion forum with an open mind

  • Form positive responses that offer support or ask for clarity in a kind way

  • Positively contribute to discussion forums and activities with your unique views and thoughts

  • Ask questions and seek help when you need it, either in the forum or via email directly to the instructor.

  • Challenge yourself to do your best work ~ the more you put into a course, the more you will get out of it!

Missing & Late Work Policy

  • Turning in assignments on time is important in online classes. Late assignments can be submitted up to one week past the deadline but will lose 25% of the possible points.

  • If no assignments are turned in by the deadline for the week, the student will be marked Absent. Missing more than 20% of the course due to absences will jeopardize a student's ability to earn a satisfactory final grade. If students are marked absent for THREE weeks they will not be able to pass this course.

  • Extensions will be granted only in extenuating circumstances. If a lengthy medical problem or other emergent personal issue will result in missing weekly assignments, please contact your instructor as soon as possible.

  • Students who know that they will not have course access for any given week should make arrangements with their instructor to complete assignments and participation requirements PRIOR to the absence.

Accessibility Services for Students with Disabilities:

CCV strives to mitigate barriers to course access for students with documented disabilities. To request accommodations, please
  1. Provide disability documentation to the Accessibility Coordinator at your academic center. https://ccv.edu/discover-resources/students-with-disabilities/
  2. Request an appointment to meet with accessibility coordinator to discuss your request and create an accommodation plan.
  3. Once created, students will share the accommodation plan with faculty. Please note, faculty cannot make disability accommodations outside of this process.

Academic Integrity

CCV has a commitment to honesty and excellence in academic work and expects the same from all students. Academic dishonesty, or cheating, can occur whenever you present -as your own work- something that you did not do. You can also be guilty of cheating if you help someone else cheat. Being unaware of what constitutes academic dishonesty (such as knowing what plagiarism is) does not absolve a student of the responsibility to be honest in his/her academic work. Academic dishonesty is taken very seriously and may lead to dismissal from the College.