Gather new ideas and inspiration by visiting nature-based preschool programs near Chicago and Milwaukee on the last day of the conference, Saturday, August 4th. All of the field trips will visit three programs, include transportation and a boxed lunch, and will begin and end at the DoubleTree Hotel parking lot. Field trips are only available as add-ons to your conference registration.
North Illinois Field Trip, 8am-4pm, $60
Join us on a tour of a variety of programs north of Chicago. We’ll visit the Chicago Botanic Garden, which just opened the Chicago Botanic Garden Nature Preschool in 2016, and features 27 gardens and four natural areas available for children to explore and use as learning areas. We’ll also visit the Winnetka Public School Nursery, which has undergone a series of changes since it was founded in 1926. Starting with a progressive education model, the school adopted the Reggio Emilia philosophy in 1991, and in 2011 began a journey to bring nature into their indoor and outdoor spaces. And we’ll also visit The Forest Playschool at North Park Village Nature Center, the first entirely outdoor preschool in the Chicagoland area. This school meets in Walking Stick Woods, a 12-acre forest nestled within an urban setting. The site is managed by the Chicago Park District and the project is a collaboration with North Park Village.
West Illinois Field Trip, 8am-4pm, $60
Western Illinois is also home to diverse nature-based programs that operate in a variety of settings. We’ll visit the Peaceful Pathways Montessori Academy, an authentic Montessori school that serves children ages 15 months through 9th grade. Each classroom at Peaceful Pathways has direct access to the outdoor environment, and the property houses a prairie, woodlands, and even a spring-fed shallow creek. We’ll also visit the Hoover Forest Preserve, home to the Natural Beginnings Early Childhood Program. With over 350 acres of prairie, streams, and woodland to explore, students immerse themselves in seasonal themes by taking nature walks, studying natural phenomena, and engaging in activities that build physical, emotional, and academic skills. And finally, we’ll visit the Prairie School of DuPage, a private elementary school in Wheaton, IL for families seeking a progressive, nature-based approach to education. They serve pre-K through grade 8 with a holistic curriculum that emphasizes traditional academics, as well as outdoor education, nature studies, visual arts, music, theater, foreign language, yoga, STEM, and more.
Wisconsin Field Trip, 8am-5pm, $65
The longer drive to experience programs in the Milwaukee area is worth it, with stops at three highly regarded nature-based education programs. We’ll visit the The Urban Ecology Center, which provides over 8,000 preschool-aged children with hands-on, inquiry-based early childhood experiences through their three environmental community centers, all located adjacent to reclaimed urban natural spaces. We’ll also visit the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center, which sits on 185 acres of forest, wetland, restored prairie, ravines, bluffs and Lake Michigan shoreline. For 15 years, the nature center has operated a nature preschool that now serves 144 children in 9 preschool classes. We’ll also visit Woodside Elementary, part of the Hamilton School District, which has created a nature kindergarten program and incorporated a trail (Timberwolf Trail), a natural play area, and several outdoor learning spaces in a previously unused parcel of oak savanna/prairie land behind the school building.