NatureStart™ Course

Hosted by Chicago Zoological Society - Brookfield Zoo 
Brookfield, IL

April 9 - 14, 2018


NatureStart™ is a professional development program focusing on skill development for informal educators in zoos, aquariums, nature centers as they provide play-based nature education for children from birth to age 8 and their families in those institutions. NatureStart™ is based on principles and practices in use by the Chicago Zoological Society which are designed to develop competencies in eight core areas needed to develop a child-centered understanding of learning, play, and nature. These competencies form the foundation for developing nature-based play and learning programs and environments for young children and families in informal science settings. 

Register for NatureStart™

Course Objectives

Participants will develop an understanding of and have the ability to demonstrate the eight competencies identified in NatureStart Professional Development program.
To plan and implement nature play activities that are sensitive to and reflective of the individual and cultural characteristics of young children and their families.
To plan and implement nature play activities that help young children develop empathy for living things.
To invite active engagement with the natural world through enhancing, enriching, and facilitating sensory-rich indoor play spaces.
To invite active engagement with the natural world through enhancing, enriching, and facilitating sensory-rich outdoor play spaces.
To interact with young children (verbally and non-verbally) in a positive social environment while supporting their play, creativity, and learning.
To engage parents and other family members in connecting children to nature.
To engage in reflection, open inquiry, and skill building activities for their work with young children and their families and caregivers in nature play programs.
To develop a plan for establishing or strengthening a family nature play program in their institution that is relevant to its geographical, ecological, physical and social circumstances and has built-in supports for sustainability.
To actively participate, as a learner and contributor, in a professional learning community focusing on developing and strengthening nature play opportunities for children and families.

Is This Course Right For You?

This course is designed for informal educators and other professionals in out of school science and nature-based settings such as zoos, aquariums, nature centers, children’s gardens, who are responsible for early childhood and family programs and/or interact with young children and families on a regular basis.  To maximize success in implementing the concepts and programming discussed in the course, CZS encourages two individuals from each institution to attend the course together, if possible. Please note the half-price discount for a second participant from the same institution is available to encourage attendance by co-workers.

Course Details

Marilyn Brink, Manager, Professional Development & Early Childhood - CZS/Brookfield Zoo;
David Becker, Senior Manager of Learning Experiences - CZS /Brookfield Zoo;

Course Credit  
Continuing through 2018, NatureStart™ is approved for credit from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Conservation Education Certificate. 
Contact the AZA Professional Development Program through or call 301-562-0777 ext 251

Course Schedule

6:30-8:00 PM - Opening Course Session – Icebreaker and Introductions
Tuesday through Friday
Classes meet 9-4 pm, lunch provided daily
9:00-1:00 PM – Course concludes following lunch

Registration & Logistics

Tuition & Expenses

Your registration fee covers tuition for the course, books and other resources included, transportation to and from zoo and lunch each day. Other expenses include hotel, travel, and evening meals.   
Early Bird Rates – due by Feb. 1, 2018
$750 for CZS Members, AZA Members, NAI Members
$850 for Non-members

Regular Rates – payment received Feb. 1 – March 31
$950 for CZS Members, AZA Members, NAI Members
$1050 for Non-members

For this course, a second participant from an institution pays half of the applicable rate. Discount will be applied at the time of registration.

Final Registration deadline: March 31, 2018

Register Now for NatureStart™

Travel & Accommodations

Chicago's Midway Airport (MDW) and O'Hare Airport (ORD) are both about 30 minutes from the hotel and Zoo. This course takes place at the Chicago Zoological Society - Brookfield Zoo in Brookfield, IL.

The Carleton of Oak Park is the designated course hotel and a block of rooms is on reserve for NatureStart course participants. Please contact the hotel to make your reservations. We have secured a special rate:
$129.00 King/Double Queen
$179.00 Deluxe King/Double Queen
(Rates do not include 11% tax)

Please visit the hotel’s website, or call at 708-848-5000 and ask for Dana Schuster or Katie Fox for additional information and to make your reservation. Be sure to mention our Group Registration Number 2723 at the time of booking to receive the discounted rate.

Ground Transportation
Ground transportation to and from airport should be arranged by each participant. American Taxi Co. is the recommended transport company. Arrangements for pick-up and return trip to either O’Hare or Midway Airport can be made by calling 847-255-9614. 
Shuttle provided by the Brookfield Zoo will transport participants to and from the zoo daily.

Questions? For additional details please contact Marilyn Brink at 708.688.8210.