Growing Outdoor Classrooms ~ Spring 2022

Growing Outdoor Classrooms

3-credit course through Castleton University

Taught virtually by April Zajko, M.Ed.

Dates: March 1 – May 15, 2022. There will be two synchronous meetings via Zoom, scheduled on two Saturdays for six hours each day. Dates to be announced. The remainder of the course will be at your own pace.

Times:​ Two synchronous Zoom meetings on two Saturday, 9:00 am – 3:30 pm with a lunch break

Format: Online

  1. Zoom for two synchronous meetings
  2. Self paced modules of content and submission of work

Location: Online

​Cost: $975

Course Description:

Every outdoor classroom is as unique as the school or program that designs and builds it. Whether you are starting from scratch, transforming a traditional playground into a nature-inspired play area, or expanding an existing outdoor classroom, this course will help you define and prioritize design elements for your space. Research confirms that learning outdoors promotes child development and learning in all domains – physical, cognitive, and social/emotional. By understanding the benefits of outdoor learning, participants will discover ways to share information with stakeholders as a powerful way to communicate the value of creating nature inspired learning spaces

Audience: Early Childhood Educators (PreK – 3rd grade) 

Instruction Information:

April Zajko, M.Ed. is a Licensed Early Childhood Educator and Reading Specialist. Her bachelor’s degree was earned at Delaware State University, and her master’s degree was earned at University of Virginia. Her passion for lifelong learning led her to study in-depth about place-based learning, mindfulness, holistic development, nature-inspired approach to early childhood, and creating supportive learning environments for all children.

Deadline to register: February 14, 2022

Registration steps:

  1. Fill out the registration form on the Fairbanks Museum website to hold your spot. (Registration is limited to 20 students per semester.) https://www.fairbanksmuseum.org/educate/professional-development
  2. Mail payment – Course payment of $975 is payable by check to the Fairbanks Museum. This is due 2 weeks from the time of registration. Please mail your check to: Fairbanks Museum, Attn: Karina Weiss, 1302 Main Street, St. Johnsbury, VT 05819 
  3. Confirmation of registration will be emailed to you once payment is received. ​

For additional course or registration information, please contact April Zajko for more information ~ aprilzajko@gmail.com

Required Readings/Texts (not included in cost of course): Cultivating Outdoor Classrooms: Designing and Implementing Child-Centered Learning Environments by Eric Nelson, Redleaf Press 

Course Goals

  1. To explain the developmental benefits of learning in an outdoor classroom and create buy-in with stakeholders within your school or early childhood program.
  2. To develop a vision map and action plan for developing an outdoor classroom that meets the need all children.
  3. To define obstacles, develop solutions, and create a funding plan in order for the outdoor classroom to be established and thrive for years to come.
  4. Establish or expand the outdoor classroom that meets the developmental needs of young children

Course Objectives

Through participation in this class, the student will be able to:

  • Recognize the differences between an outdoor classroom and traditional playground
  • Describe the significance of nature-based education in early childhood (preschool through 3rd grade) and name the developmental benefits from learning in an outdoor classroom.
  • Demonstrate ways to share information with stakeholders about outdoor classrooms as a way to communicate the value of creating nature inspired learning spaces
  • Explore ways to get buy-in from stakeholders and discuss ways to assemble in inner circle of supporters 
  • Design a vision map of your outdoor classroom with multiple phases of implementation
  • Research ways to secure funding to build or expand outdoor classrooms 
  • Develop an action plan for creating an outdoor classroom based on your vision and research. 

Outdoor Classrooms Community Conversations

I am excited to announce my “Outdoor Classroom Community Conversations” that are open to anyone who is interested! Throughout the Spring of 2021, April’s Teaching Tree will lead two monthly *FREE* community conversations about outdoor classrooms & nature-based education.

April Zajko, M.Ed. is dedicated to building community & deepening our roots for nature-based education

Format for these conversations:

10-15 minute slideshow and discussion led by April Zajko

15 minute guided small group activity using ‘break out rooms”

30 minute whole group conversation

Other details:

Community conversations will be on Zoom (to get the link – email aprilzajko@gmail.com )

No registration required

FREE

There will be NO certificate or PD hours for attending since this is an informal conversation.

You are welcome to invite friends and share the link.

NOTE: These sessions will be recorded and will be posted on April’s Teaching Tree on Facebook & Instagram. 

Currently Scheduled Sessions:

Outdoor Classroom Vision Map – Sunday, March 14, 2021 4-5 pm EST

Outdoor Classroom Overcoming Obstacles – Sunday, March 28, 2021 4-5 pm EST

To get the link – email aprilzajko@gmail.com 

Summer Professional Development with April Zajko, M.Ed.

Thanks for all those who attended “April’s Teaching Tree” trainings in May 2020! All of our trainings were held via Zoom which worked better than anticipated.

Nearly 200 Vermont based early childhood educators attended trainings this month led by April Zajko! The feedback has been amazing and I appreciate the sense of community and mutual respect that we have in our early childhood field here in Vermont.

Topics in May 2020 included:

Growing Outdoor Classrooms (6 hours) ~ introduction and practical training in how to naturalize your outdoor space

POWER: Path of Wellness, Environment, and Relationships (6 hours) ~ a personal empowerment, self-care, and community care model training offered 1 hour a week for six weeks

Natural Loose Parts (2 hours) ~ explore open ended materials that foster deep engaged play

Visioning Our Future with April & Dawn Irwin (6 hours) ~ a leadership and advocacy course offered 1 hour a week for six weeks

Finding Your Way: Ethical Decision Making (6 hours – offered as 2+2+2 model) ~ explore the NAEYC Code of Conduct and practice with real world and relevant scenarios

Sponsors in May 2020 included:

Building Bright Futures Caledonia, Essex, & Orleans

Let’s Grow Kids – “Make Way for Kids Grant” & Stephanie Carvey in Rutland, VT

Growing with Wonder in Essex, VT & Dawn Irwin

Northern Lights at Community College of Vermont

 

 

I hope to offer these same trainings again in June & July 2020! I am also designing “Nature Inspired Teacher” as a 6 hour ONLINE training. Another new training in June will be a 2 hour “Sensory Gardens”. If your network, organization, or center would like to sponsor a training send me an email! aprilzajko@gmail.com 

Please follow me at April’s Teaching Tree either on Facebook or Instagram for updates on upcoming trainings & for free ideas on nature-inspired early childhood topics!

June 2020 trainings: (I will update this as more sessions open)

“Finding Your Way: Ethical Decision Making” on June 24 & July 1 ~ There are slots open for my *FREE* 6 hour training funded by Northern Lights-   Register on the Northern Lights calendar at:  https://northernlightsccv.org/trainings/finding-your-way-ethical-decision-making-for-professionals-21/

My “Sensory Garden” training will be funded by Northern Lights at CCV. The first three sessions are full, so they will open another training on June 24 6-8pm. Registration is not yet open but check back next week on the Northern Lights calendar.

Visioning Our Future with April & Dawn Irwin (6 hours) ~ a leadership and advocacy course offered 1 hour a week for six weeks  (FULL) 

Thanks again for your ongoing support! Offering high quality professional development for early childhood educators is my teaching passion! I am honored that so many attended my trainings and I hope that they inspire your work with children!

With gratitude,

April Zajko, M.Ed.

aprilzajko@gmail.com

 

Upcoming Training ~ Active Indoor Play

depth of field photography of p l a y wooden letter decors on top of beige wooden surface
Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

Title: Active Indoor Play

Date/ Time: November 21, 2019  6-8 p.m.

Location: Concord School

Instructor: April Zajko

Cost: $5.00 for non-network members of the Caledonia & S. Essex starting point networks

Register by emailing – Lynn Macie at learningatlynnies@gmail.com  (Please register by Nov. 16th)

Description:  Childcare providers know that healthy children are ACTIVE all day, but how can we arrange our learning environment to support gross motor play. This two-hour training will help childcare providers feel ready to support gross motor play indoors on days that they can’t get outside. Learn more about the gross motor skills children ages 0-5 should know, explore LOTS of ways to get children moving indoors, explore how to incorporate yoga activities into circle time and transitions throughout the day, and learn how to teach calming and self-regulation with slower movement & breathing activities.

Objectives:

  • Participants will define gross motor skills for children ages 0-5 years old and will create a binder of resources that will keep kids moving and engaged throughout the day.
  • Participants will explore a wide variety of indoor gross motor activities that will keep children engaged and burn off excess energy
  • Participants will learn yoga activities to use at circle time and transitions, as well as learning how to teach calming and self-regulation with slower movement activities.
  • Participants will explore ways to create a “Cozy Cottage” space in their program for children to use to self-regulate.