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Ohio Nature-Based Early Childhood Education Collaborative

 Winter News

Thanks for your patience on a lapse in last meeting's updates!

ONbECECollaborative Highlights!

"Nature scene" in watercolor, from Michelle Bock's class. Child, 4 yrs old.

GET CONNECTED with our Partnered Agencies

The Natural Start Alliance is hosting a webinar discussing the difference between setting up your program as a non-profit or for profit business. February 21, 2024. has a 3 part webinar to help folks use the NABERS tool, a Nature-based Education Rating Scale to improve early childhood teaching.

Upcoming Professional Development

This year, the conference has a Nature-based track with all sessions Ohio Approved!  Here are a sample of those sessions by our Leadership Team board members!

Presenter: Carol Juergemeier & Emily Johnson

Saturday 8:30-10 am

Title: Outside Matters: How Nature Can Enable Us to Feel Healthier, More Creative, More Empathetic and Engaged as Teachers

Length: 1.5 Hours

Presenter: Rachel Konerman

Saturday 1:00-2:30 pm

Title: STEM in the PlayScape: Engaging Children and Enhancing the Environment (Part 1)

Length: 1.5 Hours

Presenter: Rachel Konerman

Saturday 3:00-4:30pm

Title: STEM in the PlayScape: Engaging Children and Enhancing the Environment (Part 2)

Length: 1.5 Hours

Presenter: Meredith Florkey

Saturday 8:00-10:00am

Title: Outdoors to Build Executive FUNction!

Length: 2 Hours

Presenter: Meredith Florkey

Saturday 1:00-2:00pm

Title: Risks Vs. Hazards in the Outdoors

Length: 1 Hour

Presenter: Meredith Florkey

Saturday 3:00-4:00

Title: Enhancing Learning with the Power of Our Senses Outdoors

Length: 1 Hour

JOIN US! Upcoming ONbECE Gatherings

Save the Date

ONbECE Nature Based learning Meetup: Ohio North Central Erie Shores & Islands 

FREE collaborative event directly after OAEYC conference at the Kalahari Resort

April 27th Saturday 5:30-8:30pm

12217 Chapin Road

Berlin Heights, Ohio 44814

Fellowship, Food, and fun in nature will be provided! 

Hosted by BTCC & facilitated by ONbECE Collaborative

Contact Michelle Bock for RSVP 440-320-1354

A big thank you to Michelle for the vision and action it takes to host this type of event!

Nature-Based Learning & Environmental Education RESOURCES

At the 2023 OAEYC conference movement towards NBL focus in the ECE field was announced at the University of Cincinnati! Find out more here!

On Purpose Academy in partnership with Ohio Naturally enjoying the snow day. This work and gear made possible by PNC bank.


Cottonwood Hollow Nature Preschool opens in fall 2024 and is currently in enrollment season! Sara Zinn, an ONbECE board member has been working towards licensing this year. Are you a family child care provider (type A or B)? Sara is looking for folks to connect with about the joys and struggles of this type of programming. Please contact her if you are interested in a dialouge.

Congratulations to Michelle Bock on her Environmental Education Recertification for 10 years now! Here's where you can find out more about Eecertification

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Ohio Nature-Based Early Childhood Education Collaborative

Late Summer News

ONbECECollaborative Highlights!

Our Leadership Team finally got together in person after a few years of virtual meetings,

representing Ohio regions. We come from all over and were so glad to connect at Little Schoolhouse in the Woods SW Ohio meet-up on September 20th. We'll share events that happened there as well as some items of interest from our September 6th zoom meeting.

Top Left: Meredith Florkey (Website Manager), from SW OH is finishing her masters at Antioch, working on consultations and opening a nature based learning center

Top Right: Carol Juergemeier (Training Coordinator) from NE OH is a teacher at Shaker Heights Nature Based Preschool and is an Ohio approved trainer, ready to coordinate Nature-Based Education Professional Development.

Bottom Left: Lee Hamzy (Partner Coordinator) hosted this group meetup with husband Jason in SW OH.

Bottom 2nd: Sarah Zinn (Regional Coordinator) is working on opening a home center and updating the members list and Ohio’s Nature-Based Education regions from Central OH.

Bottom 3rd: Michelle Bock(Communicator) writes the newsletters, recently received her CDA, is a teacher at Head Start, and is working on her Environment Education recertification for Ohio. From Northern OH.

Bottom 4th: Rachel Konereman (Organizer) is the Professional Development Coordinator at the Arlitt Child Development Center at the University of Cincinnati. She presents Nature-Based Early Education workshops & college courses, and is proud to be part of the work Arlitt has done to bring a playscape to all children.

Eppie Miller is here in spirit, busy teaching nature-based practices in the Cleveland area.

Our host for a SW Ohio meet up, Little Schoolhouse in the Woods, is in their 12th year operating with 2 acres and still ran during covid. It is tuition-based, operates with a board plus some grants. Operates on 2 acre home property 8-3 full day with 12-15 children. It is able to offer certain events to local children in the lower income bracket. Their nature-based preschool backs up to 1400 acres of the city’s Mt. Airy Forest. Students are exploring outside most of the day and often enjoy a daily forest hike. They have been in session for a few weeks now and they are at the current moment all about natural playtime.

Members gather like the children near a fire in fellowship of people interested in, advocating for, beginning or working in the field of nature-based education to share ideas, challenges, and successes in the nature-based early childhood education field, a non-traditional career. Participants here follow the framework pedagogy but operate through different pathways, typess of knowledge, and have a variety of experiences and diverse environments. Some operate as homeschooling, ODJFS Licensing Type A & B Home or centers. Programs can be non-profit, tuition based, or sponsored under an established agency such as a school, university, or church. Common discussion consisted of topics not only related to licensing and zoning but also the importance of a risk & hazard assessment, the need for substitutes and employees that are trained and qualified.

Mary Dudley led the group in the creation of grapevine wreaths that we added seasonal flowers and plants to. This represented the circular nature of events, relationships, and issues in our world. Mary is a passionate educator whose career has taken her around the country, from Cincinnati to Seattle to Boulder to Coral Gables and back. She strives to bring environmental education to students of all ages who seek to integrate nature into their daily lives and classroom curriculum. She is founder and board president of Westwood Grows and the Ecology Education Manager of the Civic Garden Center of greater Cincinnati, as well as Board Treasurer for Little Schoolhouse in the Woods.

JOIN US! Upcoming ONbECE Gatherings

We are looking for who will host the next regional gathering! Do you and a few neighboring programs want to put something together? We can help with planning and advertisement!

GET CONNECTED with our Partnered Agencies

Upcoming Professional Development

Nature-Based Learning & Environmental Education RESOURCES


A Roadmap For A Successful Outdoor Early Education Program How doing your best will help you succeed.

Jason Hamzy

Running an outdoor education program requires a unique set of skills. From landscaping to restaurants to backpacking, I have a number of life experiences that have prepared me for this job. My wife and partner has years of experience in early childhood and has a naturally empathetic and compassionate demeanor with the children. I have learned so much from her! I also recognize how lucky we have been! There are certain formulas that can’t be recreated, no matter how much you try. For instance, we are a husband and wife team. We’ve been married more than 25 years and are as in love today as we were back when we first began sharing adventures together. There is a lot of trust and open communication that occurs, and this transfers to our job. Having a partner that understands what is needed and is willing to shift mindset in order to fill any particular role is an important part of how we work so well together. No matter how much training you have, or how much money you have to spend, that is the single most important asset our program offers.

The best advice I can offer is to focus on the quality and structure of care. The children’s safety and well-being should be paramount. Place your energy into making sure you are providing the best opportunities for safe, quality outdoor play time, and the rest will fall into place. That simple formula is how we have attracted families that appreciate what we do and have continued to support us long after their children moved on to other schools. It is also why we seem to attract educator’s families. I think that teachers tend to recognize the value of both play and nature in the development of children and prioritize those aspects when they seek childcare. This has been helpful to us in so many ways.

Having alumni who are educators means that the greater community appreciates what we do. These folks make great partners and Board members. One of our current Board members is a former client who teaches at a local university. She includes our non-profit as a learning

opportunity for students who seek community engagement opportunities for her class, Synthesis into Action: Sustainable Communities. This is a service learning course for individualized studies majors. Last year, students came and taught several nature- based lessons, with wonderful results. This year, they applied for (and we were awarded) a grant to run summer outdoor early education programs! By simply doing what we sincerely believe is the best approach to early childhood, we have attracted quality families that continue to attend our community events, stay in touch, and support us in so many ways!

I can not design a roadmap for success that will work for everyone. I can only be grateful to have an amazing partner and continue to put my energy into running the best program I can imagine. I can recommend finding quality people who work well together and are motivated by positive outcomes for children.

The rewards and challenges have been equally great, but anyone who puts their mind to it can achieve similar success. I love what I do. I have no interest in consultation or administration (although we do a fair bit of admin work running a non-profit). It is my sincere hope that every one of our students will grow up with a deep love and appreciation for nature and the world in general. I do this by giving my heart and soul to them. Every day. Every year.

Good luck!

Jason Hamzy

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Ohio’s Nature-Based Early Childhood Education Collaborative

Summer News 2023


We met at an all members meeting via zoom right before the annual Natural Start conference on July 24. Here is the slideshow if you would like to read up on what’s happening and get involved. Preview attachment 2023 Annual Meeting. We are always accepting new members, so get started today! It’s going to be a great year!

WELCOME new members Sarah Zinn and Carol Juergemeier to the ONbECE leadership team!

Leaders commit to serving a 2 year minimum. We are so excited to enhance our roles in training and regional coordination through their involvement.

JOIN US! Upcoming ONbECE Gatherings

Our next ONbECE Southwest Regional Meet Up will be hosted by Lee & Jason Hamzy at Little Schoolhouse in the Woods on September 16! Please share with your people! It’s a great opportunity to connect with other NBL educators and start off the year together strong.

GET CONNECTED with our Partnered Agencies

Did you miss the Natural Start 2023 conference and are interested in being part of a growing professional network and advocacy for Nature Based Learning, not only in Ohio, but nationally? Get informed and plan on attendance in July 2024.

Share some stories or pictures of connection and inspiration if you are an Ohio resident and attended this year’s online conference by emailing

Upcoming Professional Development

The new online program at Cincinnati was announced at the OAEYC conference in April 2023.

Ohio Naturally

New workshops are now being scheduled! We will come to your center to deliver Ohio Approved workshops! Obtaining these credits in your own center together where we can interact with your outdoor spaces create practical place-based connection with the nature in your own space.

Arlitt Professional Educator Learning Series, STEM in the PlayScape Learning

Modules. CEU credits: free, for Ohio Approved Hours contact Rachel Konerman


*SAVE THE DATE* The Ohio Association for the Education of Young Children (OAEYC) conference April 24-27, 2024 will again be located at Kalahari in Sandusky, Ohio.

At the 2024 OAEYC conference we are excited to highlight more Nature-based Learning! We plan to have some ONbECE membership presence at the conference and a Lake Erie shores & Island North Central meetup on Sunday April 28th, tour times and locations TBD. Join our membership email list to keep updated on postings. You won’t want to miss this weekend gathering of ECE and NBL professional development and networking.

Nature-Based Learning & Environmental Education RESOURCES

FREE Environment Education resources available for your programs and classrooms!


Announcing a new nature play program at Learning Tree Farm called Farm Explorers!

This program is geared toward 3-11 year olds but all are welcome! We’ll have the incredible gift of hands-on experiences in the woods, garden, nature playscape, and barns! The class

starts THIS WEEK and is Wednesdays from 10:30 am to noon. You are welcome to pack a

picnic and stay to explore after class. Please feel free to share with anyone interested in the

program and reach out to with any questions or

For those in the Dayton area, Ohio Naturally is partnering with host Open Air Village for their third seasonal meet up for nature-based educators, environmental educators, and 'inside' teachers who are curious! This free event features networking, a skill share for make and take, a tour of a local nature-based program, and resource share out. Gather 'round!

Leadership Team member, Michelle Bock attended the OAEYC conference in April 2023 and had this to say:

OAEYC 2023 conference at Kalahari in Sandusky Ohio was good.

This was a very interesting conversation starter at the conference when it comes to being informed and aware of the Early childhood career with advocating for quality child care options and compensation as well as providing quality Early learning standards in a time where all families are struggling to find it and all professionals are struggling to keep up with demands and perceptions. Take aways! -Need to advocate child care options -Transformative change requirements & shifting mental models -Rethink core shifts * so where does Nature-Based [education] living fit in?


Fourteen Ohioans Presented with ODNR’s Top Conservation Honors

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohioans who have dedicated their lives to the conservation and preservation of Ohio’s natural resources received top honors Wednesday from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). Family, friends, and fairgoers watched as Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, ODNR Director Mary Mertz, and other ODNR officials inducted seven people into the Ohio Natural Resources Hall of Fame and awarded seven others with ODNR’s Cardinal Award. “This is an outstanding group of dedicated Ohioans who have truly made conservation their life mission,” ODNR Director Mary Mertz said. “We are proud to recognize them with these high honors, as we hope their passion and major achievements will inspire future generations to help the state’s natural wonders soar to new heights.”

The Ohio Natural Resources Hall of Fame has a long legacy in the state of Ohio. The award was created in 1966 to celebrate individuals who have made significant contributions to protecting Ohio’s natural resources. With today’s inductions, the number of people presented with this honor is 193.

The Cardinal Award

In addition to the Hall of Fame inductions, ODNR also presented the Cardinal Award to seven Ohioans. The Cardinal Award, created in 1971, honors individuals and organizations that demonstrate exceptional awareness and concern for ideals reflected in the department’s mission statement: To ensure a balance between the wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all.

Cardinal Award recipients have included outdoor writers, educators, farmers, biologists, naturalists, businesses, sporting organizations, and volunteers across the state of Ohio.

Brenda Metcalf

As the Environmental Education Council of Ohio’s Executive Director for the past 20 years, Brenda Metcalf has never stopped moving environmental education in Ohio forward. Metcalf has developed quality relationships with the Ohio EPA through their Partnership Grant that supports the Environmental Careers Program.

This program reaches thousands of Ohio students with career messages and resources, connects them with professionals in the environmental fields, and provides materials to support exploration of those potential career paths. In addition, Metcalf’s partnership with the Ohio Department of Education helped foster the Ohio Environmental Literacy Plan in 2012- one of the first in the country. This plan outlines all the key benchmarks that Ohio students and adults should achieve to become educated, connected stewards of Ohio’s environment.

Finally, Metcalf has fostered a long-term positive relationship with ODNR through her constant support of Project WILD, Project Learning Tree, and other initiatives. She has a long partnership with the Ohio Division of Wildlife through a grant to support high school research on wildlife and their habitats, support of the Ohio Student Wildlife Research Symposium, through the EECO regional director networks that regularly host Project WILD workshops, and the promotion of our resources and materials through her outreach efforts into classrooms and conference displays.


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