Forum: Minnesota Department of Education's Outdoor Learning in Early Childhood Project


The Natural Start Alliance collaborates with state and regional groups around the country to advocate for and promote outdoor learning as a high-quality approach to early childhood education. These groups work from the very local to the regional level to support and provide training to educators all along the outdoor learning spectrum, from those just stepping outdoors with their students for the first time to those operating nature-based preschools. 

For this month’s forum, we’ve invited representatives from one such group, Minnesota Early Childhood Outdoors (MnECO), to share their recent success in partnering with the Minnesota Department of Education to develop outdoor learning resources for all early childhood educators. 

Anna Dutke, Jenny Hanlon, and Sheila Williams Ridge are members of the MnECO Steering Committee and led a project partnering with the MN Depeartment of Education. During the forum, Anna, Jenny, and Sheila will discuss the development of this project and partnership: 

  • How did the partnership between MnECO and the MN Department of Education begin? 
  • How were resources distributed (how did they get into the hands of educators)?
  • What have been the most effective strategies for bringing this resource to life? 
  • What feedback has been received on how educators are using the resources?
  • What opportunities do they see for future collaborations?
  • How can this project impact other advocacy efforts (either in Minnesota or elsewhere) related to outdoor learning in early childhood?  

The remainder of the presentation will provide an overview of the resources created to support integrating outdoor learning into early childhood programs. These resources continue to be available for anyone to access. 

View a recording of the forum.