Nature Based Education

Nature-based education is an approach where outdoor learning experiences are integrated into teaching and learning.. In practice, nature-based education looks like:

  • Extensive time outdoors each day (in all types of weather unless it’s dangerous)
  • Integration of outdoor experiences in children’s learning both indoors and outdoors
  • Authentic, local nature represented indoors through toys, games, books, and other materials
  • A natural outdoor play area rich with materials children can use in many ways for meaningful play and exploration
  • Time spent in natural areas beyond the boundaries of the fenced play area

Children are learning while playing and connecting to place—Central Maine!

Nature is good for children’s development

There is more and more evidence on the importance of time outdoors for children’s development. Among the many benefits…

Little boy climbing wooden fencePhysical

Children are more active, have better balance and coordination, and reduced chances of nearsightedness when they play in nature.

Boy and girl hiding behind bushesSocial-Emotional

Children who spend time near nature are better able to handle life stressors and have greater interactions with peers–including problem-solving skills.

Girls with treeCognitive

Nature engages all of the senses for observation and creative thinking. Children are also better able to concentrate after time in nature.

Baby girl playing in sandStewardship

Children who play outside are more likely to cherish and protect nature now and when they become adults.

Learning Inside, Outside & Beyond

Integration of nature-based education means we are intentional about using nature as another teacher in all three learning spaces. These learning spaces include the indoor classroom, outdoor play areas, and the areas beyond the fence, such as the nearby woods, which we call the “Beyond.”

Our collaborators

Rachel Larimore
Dr. Rachel Larimore

To be thoughtful about our integration of nature-based education we have enlisted the help of Dr. Rachel A. Larimore, an internationally recognized expert in nature-based early childhood education. As the founder and Chief Visionary of Samara Early Learning her work focuses on helping early childhood educators start nature-based schools or add nature-based approaches into their existing program. She has written multiple books including Establishing a Nature-Based Preschool and Preschool Beyond Walls: Blending Early Childhood Education and Nature-Based Learning. With more than 25 years in nature-based education, including ten years directing a nature-based preschool, Rachel brings both theoretical and practical perspectives to our work at Educare.

Laura Newman
Laura Newman
Laura Newman founded the School Ground Greening Coalition that was based at Portland Trails. She has experience with school ground design to bring nature into those community child based spaces.  She works with PreK-12 programs in the Greater Portland area and has been working with Educare Central Maine for nearly four years now.  Laura recently authored
QUALITY OUTDOOR PLAY ENVIRONMENTS:  How Good Design Integrates Nature and Loose Parts to Support Healthy Play and Development in Young Children, a guidebook for creating nature based play environments.


Are you looking for ways to improve your site’s outdoor play space, or planning a completely new space?  Request a FREE PDF DOWNLOAD of a new 160-page full color guidebook written especially for Maine Early Childhood Providers! Find ideas for adding a few new features, or to do a full design and layout.

To receive your free download, complete this form:,

Created with the support of Educare Central Maine and the Quimby Family Foundation, and in collaboration with Maine Roads to Quality Professional Development Network (MRTQ PDN).

Nature-based learning at Educare.