Summit designed for those who want to help kids connect with nature

Running, jumping, climbing and splashing are more than fun childhood activities, outdoor free play can have a positive impact on learning, creativity and attitude.

“We are becoming more and more aware of the benefits of children being outside and engaging in creative play,” said Miami Valley Leave No Child Inside board member and Five Rivers MetroParks education coordinator Doug Horvath. “Learning is not just about studying and spending time in the classroom, it’s about experiences.”

Experiencing nature is what the annual Miami Valley Leave No Child Inside Summit is all about. In its eighth year, the summit is designed for teachers, child care professionals and families who want to discover new ways to help children connect with nature. This year’s summit is slated for March 30 at Bruckner Nature Center in Troy, its fifth location in the event’s eight years.

“You can find so many teachable moments when surrounded by nature,” Horvath said. “This enrichment opportunity empowers those invested in childhood development with the tools they need to facilitate important experiences in the natural world.”

The summit begins with registration, networking and a community expo followed by presentations of the OUTstanding Teacher Awards and the Connect to Nature Site Awards and workshops.

Summit workshops vary from those designed primarily for teachers to the family-friendly Hike It Baby program.

Create a Green Schoolyard: Five Rivers MetroParks staff members describe how to establish a successful green schoolyard program, which includes incorporating curriculum into the garden. Attendees are asked to bring a basic sketch of their school grounds to the workshop. (Adults)

Growing Up Wild: Learn how to explore nature with early learners with easy-to-use activities. Program based on the award-winning, nationally-recognized Growing Up Wild curriculum. (Adults; Step Up To Quality credits offered)

Hike It Baby: Take a stroll with the Hike It Baby group and learn how to involve children in your hiking activities. Experience wild animal ambassadors and tips for parents and hike leaders for creating a successful outing for families.

Resiliency Through Exposure to Nature: Explore the benefits of including nature in student activities, and make plans to incorporate more outdoor education into your day. (Adults; Step Up To Quality credits offered)

The workshops are designed to provide inspiration and support for those who are working to enhance outdoor experiences for children.

“Kids are really good at play when given the opportunity, Horvath said. “They need contact with dirt and sticks and stones, but it’s all about access. You see more and more messages about the importance of getting kids outside but we — as a community — need to make it easy.”


What: Teachers, child care professionals and families are invited to discover new ways to connect children with nature

When: March 30, 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., participants have access to the nature center until 5 p.m.

Where: Bruckner Nature Center, 5995 Horseshoe Bend Road, Troy

Registration: Required and available through the Ohio Leave No Child Inside Collaboratives website under the Miami Valley Region at

More: Save the date for the Natural Playscapes Workshop and Keynote on June 13 at Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark. Designer and builder Adam Bienenstock will provide information about the importance of natural playscapes and how to bring them to your community. Registration is open at

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