Nature Based Learning Symposium 2023

About The Symposium

 This two-day symposium on August 29th and 30th will bring educators and their partners together to experience and learn about nature-based learning through engagement with the environment, relationship-building, discussion, and workshops. Participants will leave with a better understanding of nature-based learning benefits and practices along with resources and relationships that promote this philosophy.

Participants Will

  • Learn about nature based education as a means of meeting their students’ social and emotional needs
  • Build an understanding around how nature based learning can be used to meet content and character goals
  • Develop a framework for incorporating nature-based learning into their work
  • Create an action plan for implementing nature based learning

Participant Folder

This folder has agendas and resources for participants. Check back after the symposium for more!

Join Us

Tickets are available through the event listing on our website. You can register for one day or both and come for as much of the symposium that fits your schedule.

August 29th 9am-4pm: Learn

The first day of the symposium includes nature immersion, a panel discussion, workshops, “un-conferencing” time, and opportunities to connect with participants.

8:30 – 9:00 Light breakfast and registration
9:00 – 9:20 Welcome and setting the stage
9:20 – 10:30 Nature immersion experience
10:30 – 10:45 Break
10:45 – 11:25 Panel discussion: The Role of NBL in a Flourishing Future
11:25 – 12:00 Breakout discussion
12:00 – 1:00 Lunch break (bring your own)
1:00 – 2:00 Workshop sessions #1
2:00 – 2:15 Break
2:15 – 3:15 Workshop sessions #2
3:15 – 4:00 “Un-conferencing” – Participant driven conversations

August 29th 4pm-5pm: Connect

At the end of the first day, we will have a networking period that will give participants the opportunity to connect with organizations that engage in and support nature based learning. If you would like to register for just the networking hour or represent an organization that would like to share what you do with our nature based learning educator community click here

August 30th9am-4pm: Act

The second day is an opportunity to develop action plans around several themes with experts and through proven processes.

8:30 – 9:00 Light breakfast and registration
9:00 – 12:00 Opening / action workshops
12:00 – 1:00 Lunch (bring your own)
1:00 – 2:00 “Un-conferencing” – Participant driven conversations
2:00 – 3:30 Action Planning Discussions: Making a nature based learning future happen
3:30 – 4:00 Closing circle

Workshop Details

August 29 – Session 1 from 1:00 – 2:00 pm

  • The “Built Environment” in Nature Education, Evan Lowenstein
  • Plastic Pollution Educational Experience, Kaeti Stoss
  • Opportunities for Student Immersion in New York State Parks, Elijah Kruger & Carlin Wakefield
  • Teach Math and Reading Skills Outdoors K-5, Rachel Tidd
  • Great Lakes Life, Nate Drag and Tara Spitzer-List

August 29 – Session 1 from 2:15 – 3:15 pm

  • Is a MWEE for me? An Introduction to Meaningful Watershed Education Experiences, Chris Widmaier
  • Connecting to Nature Through Play: Outdoor games and activities that foster stewardship, leadership and community, Taylor Jones and Earthworks Staff
  • Nature Photography, Grequan Carter
  • Facilitating Group Discussions, Janean Shedd
  • Teaching, learning, and fixing: how our living planet controlled the climate, Jon Schull

August 30 – Action Sessions from 9-12

  • Project Learning Tree K-3, Betsy Ukeritis
  • Ms. Monarch Butterfly and Mr. Spider…Our Ecological Relations, Almeta Whitis
  • The Nature of Writing / The Writing of Nature, Wendy Low
  • Foraging and Health Benefits of Plants, Lindsay Cray
  • Risk Management in the Outdoors, David Nichols



Symposium Details

Guiding Questions
  • What is nature based learning and what are the benefits?
  • How does nature based learning happen?
  • What practices lead to the ability to observe deeply and cultivate inquiry?
  • How do we use nature to enhance teaching within our existing educational goals?
  • How do we ensure nature based learning is equitable and culturally responsive?
For Educators (broadly defined)

This event is designed for educators of every kind who want to integrate nature based experiences and environments into their well being and/or teaching practices. We invite anyone who is interested to attend.

We Welcome All

We, the planning team firmly believe that the active inclusion of people from varying identities, backgrounds, and perspectives is essential to creating equitable access to holistic and affirming nature based learning experiences. Reach out to let us know how we can accomodate your needs.



COVID-19 Safety

This event will be outdoors and the risk of COVID-19 transmission is relatively low. Masks are optional and we expect anyone who has tested positive or has come in contact with anyone who has to stay home. We will offer a refund to anyone who needs to cancel due to COVID exposure.

Presented by Rochester Ecology Partners

Rochester Ecology Partners helps all people in the Rochester Region find nature where they live work and play. We do this through nature based learning and community building, particularly with young people.

About the Venue

Durand Eastman Park is one of Rochester’s magnificent parks and a perfect place to engage in activities that build a deeper connection with nature and each other.

The symposium will be held in and around the Magnolia shelter. To get there turn onto log cabin road from Lakeshore Boulevard and keep driving until you get to to the top of the hill.

We encourage car pooling. When you register you can select whether you would like or are offering a ride.

Durand Eastman Park Map

Google Maps Directions

Event Sustainability

Creating an event with a limited environmental impact and a positive impact on the community and economy are important to us.

  • Participants are encouraged to bring their own water bottles, coffee mugs, and utensils. Stations for refill will be available.

Presenting Individuals

We greatly appreciate our presenters for sharing their expertise and time with


  • Emily Boedo, In-store Instructor, REI
  • Grequan Carter, Published Author, Founder/Coach of ROC Vipers AAU
    Basketball Org., Eye of Nature Coaching, and RECivation
  • Trish Corcoran, Tonawanda Onondowaga, Educator at the Harley School,
    Indigenous Peoples Day Rochester Chairperson, Friends of Ganondagan Board
  • Nate Drag, Great Lakes Literacy Specialist, New York Sea Grant
  • Ashley Foss, Lead guide Instructor, Earthworks
  • Loretta Hauslauer, Lead Guide Instructor, Earthworks
  • Taylor Jones, Program Manager, Earthworks
  • Elijah Kruger, Environmental Educator for New York State Parks. Carlin is the
  • Ryan Loysen, Manager of Outreach & Engagement at GreenSpark Energy
  • Wendy Low, Writer of poetry, prose and drama, writing coach and editor,
    former college writing instructor and former director of education at Writers &
  • Evan Lowenstein, City of Rochester resident and has worked in environmental
    education and community planning/design/development for almost 30 years
  • Dave Nichols, Lead of Classes/In-store Experiences, REI
  • Carter Remy, Heathti Kids, PlayROCs Project coordinator, Rochester Ecology
    Partners Board Member
  • Sara Rubin, Master Educator and Author
  • Jon Schull, co-founder,
  • Janean Shedd, outdoor educator with experiences including Nature’s
    Classroom, The Walden Project-NY, Proctor Academy’s Mountain Classroom
    Program, and Expeditions of Empowerment.
  • Tara Spitzer-List, RCSD Science Educator
  • Kaeti Stoss, Environmental Education Specialist, RIT College of Science
  • Rachel Tidd, author of Wild Learning: Practical Ideas for Bringing Teaching
    Outdoors and the Wild Math and Reading Curriculums®.
  • Erin Turpin, Project Coordinator, Third Eye Network, LLC and 490 Farmers
    Board Member
  • Betsy Ukeritis, Inter-regional Environmental Educator at NYS Department of
    Environmental Conservation
  • Carlin Wakefield, FORCES Program Specialist for the Finger Lakes Region of
    State Parks
  • Almeta Whitis, NYS Master Storyteller, Teaching Artist-In-Residence

Follow us on social media or share your email for updates.

Symposium Sponsors and Supporters

This event is made possible thanks to the generous contributions of our community members.

Please reach out to Chris Widmaier (Executive Director) if you would like to support the success of the symposium in any way.

AES Energy

GreenSpark Solar

Monroe County Parks

New York State Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation


Indigenous Peoples Day

Integrating Nature

Ugly Duck Coffee

RIT College of Science


Wild Learning

NY Sea Grant

EcoRestoration Alliance

NY Department of Environmental Conservation


Project Origin

The first nature based learning symposium was held on Septemeber 1, 2021. After a long and weary winter Kyra Stephenson and Chris Widmaier sat down under the trees of Durand Eastman park to imagine how more teachers might be exposed, and in turn expose their students to the power of nature based learning. Throughout the spring and summer of 2021 a working group of dedicated volunteers planned and put on a nature based learning symposium for 50 educators. In 2022 the effort grew to include 100+ educators as we tried to answer, “What is the opposite of Zoom?”. The success of these two events lead organizers to commit to making it an annual event. As Rochester Ecology Partners has grown we have been able to take on more of the work as a staff allowing us to provide a valuable experience to our community through our mission of “helping all people find nature where they live, work, and play”.