Nature Nurtures Symposium

March 7, 2020 | 8 am – 4 pm | Digital Harbor High School

As part of a larger initiative to increase equitable access to nature in Baltimore City, our Cities Connecting Children to Nature team is hosting a symposium designed for formal and informal educators, childcare providers, and health professionals. Our hope is to foster cross-sector communication and share the wealth of information that educators, childcare providers, and health experts each bring to the table in helping Baltimore’s children thrive.

We are growing increasingly aware of the benefits of spending time in nature, some of which include improvements in mental and physical health, social-emotional development, stress reduction, and higher academic achievement. Unfortunately, most children in low-income families and communities of color grow up with less access to nature than their peers, and additionally face persistent inequities in health, income, and quality of life. Limited access to nature means that our children find themselves less able to reap the benefits of regular access to the outdoors.

During the symposium, attendees will:

  1. Receive Trauma-informed care training
  2. Choose from hands-on sessions led by environmental educators, outdoor recreation experts, and health care professionals
  3. Hear personal stories from Baltimore’s youth about their experiences with the outdoors

Light Breakfast and Lunch will be provided!

Lunch hour will include tablers from local environmental and outdoor organizations as well as opportunities to network.*

LocationDigital Harbor High School, 1100 Covington St., Baltimore, MD 21230

Date: March 7, 2020

Time: 8 am – 4 pm

Registration fee: $10 (scholarships will be available**)

*If your organization is interested in tabling, please contact Anika Richter at or 443-984-2725.

**If the $10 registration fee serves as a barrier to your attendance, please contact Anika Richter at for more information about scholarships.

Afternoon Breakout Session Descriptions

See below for descriptions of each afternoon breakout session. You will select one when registering. Many of the workshops have limited capacity, so we recommend signing up as early as possible!

1. Sensory Play Nature’s Way

Host: Susan Penix; Baltimore City Childcare Resource Center

Target Audience: Early Childcare Providers; Environmental Program Providers; Judy Center Staff

Workshop Summary: Young Children learn best through sensory experiences and play. Nature is sensorial, it is the perfect medium for young children to learn and grow. This workshop looks at ways in which you can use nature to help young children learn and hopefully grow a lifelong appreciation for the natural world. The session will touch on the development of schemas (brain connections made during play). It will take a look at different nature based sensory experiences that support brain development. There will be hands on examples for participants to explore. Time permitting, participants will create a nature based material to take back to their classrooms and go outside to do an activity.

2. Outdoor Classroom Management with Great Kids Farm

Host: Laura Menyuk; Great Kids Farm of Baltimore City Public Schools

Target Audience: Formal Educators (K-8 and HS); Environmental Program Providers

Workshop Summary: Effective outdoor classroom management for running experiential, hands-on activities outside, in gardens, or with food/cooking. For teachers who want to engage their students with nature in alignment with their curriculum, and want to build and practice skills to manage students in settings outside the classroom so effective, safe learning can take place. Settings we’ll discuss include: streams, forest patches, garden beds, sidewalks/neighborhood walk-explorations, and makeshift teaching kitchens.

3. Forests are for Rest: Nature Therapy for the Restless

Host: Ted Martello; TreeBaltimore of BCRPAssociation for Nature and Forest Therapy

Target Audience: Formal Educators (K-8 and HS); Environmental Program Providers; Mental Health Care Providers; Other Health Care Providers

Workshop Summary: The practice of forest bathing was developed to utilize the human senses to discover the healing powers of nature. Learn about the history, mission, and vision of the Association for Nature and Forest Therapy, and experience a guided walk for yourself.

4. Developing a Personal Narrative

Host: Laurel Ady; National Council for Science and the Environment

Target Audience: Early Childcare Providers; Formal Educators (K-8 and HS); Environmental Program Providers; Mental Health Care Providers; Other Health Care Providers

Workshop Summary: This session encourages participants to look inward to help create their own personal narrative for the purpose of relating to those they work with. Reviewing elements of a good story, considering how a personal story can help connect people to an idea, and how all personal stories are somehow connected are focus points in this workshop.

5. Applying NGSS-Aligned Practices to Outdoor Learning Experiences

Host: Tiffany Kim, Mary Stapleton, Kara Berger, Annemarie McDonald; Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore

Target Audience: Formal Educators (K-8); Environmental Program Providers

Workshop Summary: Join us for a deep dive in learning how to apply the NGSS-aligned Claim-Evidence-Reasoning framework to your students’ outdoor learning experiences. We will cover what the C-E-R framework is and how it not only aligns with science practices but also any other class that involves creating a well-reasoned argument. Participants will practice applying C-E-R to a given scenario themselves to ensure understanding, and then we will break into smaller groups to discuss applying the framework to different examples of outdoor learning.

6. Urban Environmental Education

Host: Erin Goodloe, Zahir Ringgold; Carrie Murray Nature Center

Target Audience: Formal Educators (K-8 and HS)

Workshop Summary: Learn how to (re)introduce kids to natural spaces and give them time, space, and permission to explore, learn, and build connections with nature. With the understanding that learning outdoors improves health and wellbeing, we will talk more about our approach to urban environmental education. Learn about our Guiding Principles in Environmental Education and methods for facilitating them.

7. Tips for Taking Students Outside

Host: Claire Cambardella; Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Target Audience: Formal Educators (High School)

Workshop Summary: Have you been wanting to use your schoolyard as an extension of your classroom? Brainstorm ideas for bringing your students outside, start thinking creatively about solutions to barriers, and participate in an interactive activity that you can incorporate with your students!

8. The Ins and Outs of Nature-Based Learning

Host: Monica French, Mepi Neill; Wild Haven

Target Audience: Early Childcare Providers; Environmental Program Providers

Workshop Summary: Learn how to integrate nature into your program’s curriculum! Nature-base learning can happen outdoors AND inside the classroom! Learn new approaches, get creative with natural materials and plan for a greener, wilder classroom! In this session, teachers will learn what nature-based learning looks like, how to execute play-based approaches in engagement with the natural world and recognize the skills being cultivated by the children in these experiences. In small groups, educators will have the opportunity to brainstorm on potential lessons, get creative and make resources to naturalize the classroom, and cultivate inspiration through pictures and videos of the Wild Haven children in action!

9. Healthy Parks, Healthy People; Healthy Community, Healthy Stewards

Host: Brittany Hall; National Park Service Chesapeake Bay

Target Audience: Formal Educators (K-8 and HS); Environmental Program Providers; Mental Health Care Providers; Other Health Care Providers

Workshop Summary: Health care professionals – from caregivers to school nurses – are an important resource for promoting public health. For the residents of Baltimore, access to parks and other green spaces could aid in reducing health disparities and strengthen connections to the community. Learn why the National Park Service recommends prescribing parks and outdoor recreational programming to empower people, tackle environmental issues, and strengthen communities towards greater health. Gain resources for connecting people to nature.

10. Bike Ride to the Park

Host: Molly Gallant, Ethan Abbott; Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks – Outdoor Recreation

Target Audience: Formal Educators (K-8 and HS); Environmental Program Providers; Mental Health Care Providers; Other Health Care Providers; PE and Health Teachers

Workshop Summary: Learn how to utilize and plan Outdoor Recreation based trips and activities considering age, class size, instructor/child ratio, and skill. Attendees will also learn how to use outdoor trips to highlight lesson plans, and will then go on a bike ride to a nearby park!

Questions about the symposium? Please contact Anika Richter at or 443-984-2725.