Professional Development Training Series

Fenner Nature Center, in partnership with PNC, is proud to present a professional development training series for early childhood educators, administrators, and education professionals. Each seminar will focus on various aspects of the practical application of student-directed learning and the introduction of nature based philosophies into your classrooms.

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Professional Development Training Series Schedule

“Bringing Nature Into the Indoor & Outdoor Classrooms” – Rachel Larimore, Ph.D., Samara Early Learning


August 26, 2022 – 10:00am-1:00pm

There’s a continuum of practice within nature-based early childhood education. One of the most common places for programs to begin integrating nature is indoors—both physically and through planned activities. Participants will leave the workshop with concrete ways to integrate nature into the physical environment as well as teacher-led activities such as large- and small-groups.

“Introduction to Fenner’s Lending Library”

October 21, 2022 – 10:00am-1:00pm

Dive deep into student directed learning and define and develop strategies of using this pedagogy as a means of supporting active learning in your classroom. Participants will end their day by exploring some of the more than fifteen hundred provocations, invitations, and resources that Fenner has assembled as part of the PNC Lending Library available to you as early learning professionals in the Capital region. This seminar is designed for those interested in enrolling in the lending library and will offer insight on how to navigate within the circulation portal.

“Planning for Play and Intentionally Connecting Children’s Interests with Curricular Goals”- Rachel Larimore, Ph.D., Samara Early Learning

November 11, 2022 – 10:00am-1:00pm

It sounds counterintuitive, but an emergent curriculum that is rooted in play and driven by children’s interests requires intentional planning. This session will focus on intentional planning that connects play to children’s interests, events happening in the natural world, and broader curricular goals.

“Taking Next Steps with Loose Parts” – Dr. Carla Gull, Inside Outside Michiana

January 13, 2023 – 10:00am-1:00pm

Have you ever wondered why children are drawn to sticks and cardboard boxes? Using hands-on and reflective approaches, explore how the theory of loose parts can enhance creativity and imagination in your setting. In this hands-on, how-to workshop, we will examine various approaches to loose parts as we develop a loose parts mindset, as well as the practical side of implementing loose parts in a variety of settings. Participants will brainstorm resources for building our own loose parts collections. We will also consider how to store and rotate loose parts. We’ll also experiment with seasonal loose parts—be ready to spend time both inside and out as we play, tinker, experiment, explore, and have fun with loose parts!

Digging Deeper with Loose Parts” – Dr. Carla Gull, Inside Outside Michiana

March 10, 2023 – 10:00am-1:00pm

You understand the basic concept of loose parts and are ready to take it to the next level! The term “loose parts” has grown in popularity recently as educators and parents have rediscovered this timeless approach to play. Loose parts play can be as simple as finding a stick and using it in play or it can take a more complex approach to open ended landscapes. We’ll dig a little more deeply to explore definitions of loose parts and debunk 7 loose parts myths in this research-based interactive workshop with practical examples and suggestions for expanding your loose parts offerings. We will explore deconstructive play, purposefully planning for loose parts, and evaluating loose parts.

“Outdoor Atelier Training & Consultation” – Rachel Larimore, Ph.D., Samara Early Learning

May 12, 2023 – 10:00am- 4:00pm

Young children need a rich workshop environment to create and make sense of the world around them. This includes outdoor play areas which serve as an extension of the classroom. This full-day workshop will focus specifically on designing natural outdoor play areas—for any budget—that support children’s holistic development. We’ll address design principles, licensing regulations, and how to bring the play area to life once it’s built—and much more!