ECO Institute Summer 2019: Educating Children Outdoors Level 2

Course Number: EDU 5627 C23
Instructor: Chip Darmstadt, Ken Benton & Sean Beckett
Location: North Branch Nature Center, Montpelier, VT
Dates and Times: July 29-August 2, 2019 all day. Final course assignment due August 16, 2019.
Tuition: $1,675

Note:Please register directly with North Branch Nature Center (NBNC). Please notify NBNC if you wish to take the Castleton course. NBNC will then give you the link to Castleton's online registration form. All payments should be payable to NBNC and sent to NBNC at 713 Elm Street, Montpelier, VT 05658.

Course Description

Essential Question: What does it mean to collaborate with the nature as a teaching partner?

The purpose of ECO Level 2 is to deepen our understanding of the natural landscape and how to fully utilize this knowledge when working with children. Participants will develop a foundation of natural history knowledge through immersive study of bird language, tree and plant identification, wild edible preparation, geology, and basic forest forensics. We will practice techniques for achieving a deeper level of inquiry and observation in nature while learning hands-on methods for embedding this knowledge into outdoor lessons. The routines that we build throughout the week are designed to deepen your class’s sense of place within the outdoor learning environment
During this course, we experience a week-long rhythm of place-based curriculum within which is the daily rhythm of the core routines and deep observation practices. This daily rhythm mirrors the experience of elementary students during a typical day of ECO. Participants will close the week envisioning integration of these methods and practices into their student’s experience. All lessons given to participants to use in their own classroom will be aligned to Vermont State Standards, Common Core and NGSS when applicable. Curriculum meets elementary standards-based objectives when lessons and units are practiced outdoors

Course Goals & Objectives

  1. To facilitate focused lessons with seasonal themes which have been aligned with Next Generation Science Standards and the Common Core.
  2. To engage participants in dialogue about methods of connecting children with their natural communities.
  3. To practice safety protocols within the context of an outdoor classroom and to reinforce the conducting of site and risk assessments in an outdoor classroom
  4. To build upon existing strengths and opportunities within a school community to support learning outdoors.
  5. To share games, stories, classroom extensions and technology integration to support the nature immersion curriculum.
  6. To provide time for collaboration among participants in creating a project/program of their own.

Course Expectations

It is expected that all course participants will fully engage in the practices demonstrated of executing a nature immersion program. The ECO Institute courses are held entirely outdoors and it is essential that all participants come prepared each day to be outdoors. A list of needed clothing and gear will be provided upon registration. Participants will complete their final course assignment by August 10th, 2018 and otherwise adhere to all current university guidelines regarding course policies. 

Castleton charges the same tuition rate whether an individual enrolls for graduate credit or decides to audit. The University registers all individuals accordingly and will produce online grade reports confirming their final grades and course participation.

Required Texts

Costs for required texts, if any, are not included in the course tuition. 

  1. Wessels, Tom. Reading the Forested Landscape: A Natural History of New England
  2. Maine Forest Service. Forest Trees of Maine
  3. Thompson, Elizabeth H. Wetland, Woodland, Wildland: A Guide to Natural Communities of Vermont
  4. Thayer, Samuel. The Forager’s Harvest: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants
  5. Young, Jon. What the Robin Knows: How Birds Reveal the Secrets of the Natural World
  6. Kimmerer, Robin Wall. Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants
  7. Leopold, Aldo. A Sand County Almanac
  8. Basso, Keith H. Wisdom Sits in Places: Landscape and Language Among the Western Apache

Other Information Not Listed Above

Course Projects

  1. In course: Group discussions based on required readings during the week. 
  2. In course: Daily written reflections related to professional and personal ethos.
  3. Post course: The final project will be presented in the form of a written proposal. Participants will outline their project proposal for implementing a plan to deepen their class’s sense of place within their outdoor learning environment. 

This written document shall include: 

  • Description and purpose of the project
  • Description of the location where the project will take place
  • Theme it is related to being taught in the classroom
  • Essential questions related to theme or topic and standards being addressed
  • Time that will be spent on the project
  • Logistics of the project that will ensure success
  • A plan to obtain necessary support
  • A plan to address potential challenges

The final project is based on an in depth vision and exploration of one topic. Students will choose one book from the Resources list to use as a reference on which to base their project. This book should be read in full and referred to in the project. Please list it in the bibliography alongside any other resources used for the final project. 

For this project, we will look for answers to all of the questions outlined at the end of the syllabus. Then we will look for documents as well as explaining in writing who you need on board for the project. 

First draft of projects: 

  1. Should first and foremost SERVE YOU practically in developing your ECO program.
  2. Should have one book resource from the list provided which the project references. Please read this book in its totality. 
  3. Should be reviewed by at least one peer in the class. Please use google docs to receive comments from your peer(s).
  4. Should be reviewed by Ken or Sean on google docs. 
  5. Should then be developed into the final product and submitted to mail to: 

The final project is due August 16th. A grade will be submitted online at the Castleton Portal by August 31st.

For additional course information

Ken Benton
(802) 229-6206

For additional registration information

Suzanne Eikenberry
(802) 229-6260