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So you want to work with young children in nature….

Looking for #butterflies in the #ENCButterflyHouse at the 2014 #ENCSpringFaire at the #EnvironmentalNatureCenter - photo featured in an @OCRegister article about the #ENCNaturePreschool today! Photo by EUGENE GARCIA The 2015 Spring Faire is on May 3

We frequently receive communications from people interested in working at our Nature Preschool, or in the Outdoor Early Childhood Education field.  Here are some great suggestions from our Education Coordinator , Alex Lane, for folks with an interest in working with young children in Nature:

Read up! There are a couple good books that I’ve read which address children and nature more so than just early childhood development. They are worth the read. The most common one you will encounter is Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv. It looks at what Richard Louv coins “Nature Deficit Disorder” and the disconnect from nature that many children are developing as well as the ramifications of this. Last Child in the Woods was pretty popular a few years ago and should be pretty readily available (or at your local library!). I would also suggest some of the literature by David Sobel, specifically Beyond Ecophobia. David Sobel has a lot of good literature out there, so check out some of his other stuff as well. His books are typically shorter but have great information on children’s development and nature. Beyond Ecophobia looks at what sort of issues we should address with children at what ages and how to best connect them with the natural world before getting them invested in the planet’s problems. These are just a couple I found particularly helpful/enlightening while working on my thesis (which was about outdoor education and collaboration).

Obtain some Experience. I think if you decide to continue with a field of study, it should be targeted at specifically what you’d like to do. If possible, I would suggest that you work in that field for a little bit. Personally, I got my BFA in Creative Writing, but once I started teaching outdoors, I knew it was for me. I then went back and got my Multiple Subject Credential and Masters of Arts in Teaching to compliment the experience I’d already gotten working in the outdoor education field. I never would have known that’s what I wanted if I’d gone right after graduating. If you can get some experience in a field that interests you, that would help give you experience for teaching in general and the knowledge about which direction you’d specifically like to go as you grow professionally. At this point, you could get any specialized degrees or certificates/credentials that aren’t typically offered.

You want to work at the ENC Nature Preschool?

The ENC Nature Preschool Teacher job description has not yet been written. I would imagine that, like most of our hires though, it would be about a combination of previous knowledge (this is where the A.S. or B.A. in Early Childhood Education would be great), ability to teach in this type of environment, experience, passion, desire to work in a team, etc. I think an A.S. would be a great start, a B.A. would definitely increase your capabilities and marketability, but there’s a lot more that goes into hiring someone that we think will fit into our work-place culture.

Alex Lane, ENC Education Coordinator

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