NatureStart™ Professional Development

Nature play and exploration are important components of child development. Research emphasizes the vital role that direct contact with nature has for young children's optimal growth in all areas of their development. As childhood becomes increasingly urbanized, childhood nature experiences require planning and facilitation on the part of educators in zoos, aquariums, nature centers, children's gardens, and other nature-based settings who are responsible for early childhood and family programs and/or interact with young children and families on a regular basis. 

NatureStart™ is a FREE professional development program based on principles and practices in use by the Chicago Zoological Society/Brookfield Zoo for your work with young children and families. This program focuses on the knowledge and skills needed to develop and facilitate high-quality early childhood nature-based play and learning programs and create appropriate nature play settings. 


Course Details:

- It will be a blend of in-person sessions and online activity.
- Attendance at three in-person full-day sessions is required to complete the course.

- Brookfield Zoo - March 24, July 21, and October 20
Greenville Zoo - May 20, August 19, November 11
- The Bronx Zoo - June 2, July 15, and November 11
- Dallas Zoo - June 10, August 5, and TBD

- Approximately 15 hours of online activity will be included over the nine months of the course.
- The NatureStart training team from your local zoo and the Chicago Zoological Society/Brookfield Zoo will be available to provide ongoing support to each participant to help ensure successful implementation of NatureStart practices at home organizations.
- Each participant will receive a NatureStart™ Toolkit.

Have questions?

Contact Marilyn Brink at 708-688-8210 or

Cory Wilcox at 708-688-8361 or

This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Grant MG-10-16-0067-16.