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  • Writer's pictureMeredith Florkey

ONbECE Newsletter 1 February 2022


Welcome to the Ohio Nature Based Early Childhood Education Collaborative's first newsletter!" First, a little background for those who may be newer:

Carol Juergemeier, Bev Walborn, Cheryl Ryan, Jeni Hoover and others met at the 2018 Natural Start Conference, found they were all from Ohio and created the Facebook Group to start gathering like minded people from our area. About the same time, Lee Hamzy in Cincinnati started to gather nature-based educators at the program she runs with husband Jason. Shortly after that, Brukner Nature Center hosted an ERAFANS retreat where the two regions could converge. More and more people started converging and it seemed as if we had enough content to start collecting names and emails into a list and create a website. Meredith Florkey, from Dayton, was in need of a project for a leadership cohort with the Partners for the Environment, and the website and some coordinated communication began. With growing need and requests of nature programs in ECE and an Ohio roundtable discussion at the Natural Start 2020 virtual conference, our group began to see the need for a more formal structure and continuity. Our current membership consists of 68 nature enthusiasts, professionals, and educators! A group of seven folks working in and toward nature-based education replied to the interest survey this summer to serve as a leadership team for the Ohio Nature-Based ECE Collaborative. Thank you to those who volunteered to serve!

Roster of ONbECE leadership team members You can find out more about these folks on our website!

Michele Bock, Ohio certified Environmental Educator Sandusky Head Start preschool teacher

Meredith Florkey, Ohio Naturally LLC

Lee Hamzy Little Schoolhouse in the Woods,

Rachel Konerman, University of Cincinnati: Early Childhood Education Teacher Prep Program and Arlitt Center,

Eppie Miller Mandel Jewish Day School, Beachwood, OH,

Sheila Torio, Educator in central Ohio,

Bev Walborn, Lorain County Metro Parks,

2021 Happenings

*EECO Annual Spring Conference presence

*Natural Start Summer Conference presence, OH Regional Roundtable survey

*NE Ohio Meetups! THANK YOU…

Chiara from Kismet Kinders One Room Schoolhouse

Erica and Jen from Rocky River Cleveland MP Nature Preschool, Johnna from Rooted in Nature, LLC, Bev from Lorain Metroparks, Carlisle Reservation and Shoepfle’s Children Garden for the warm welcome. A big thanks to Bev for coordinating this event and to Ohio Naturally for providing a farm grown lunch!

Our leadership team has begun to analyze survey results from YOU, sent out in July. These topics will be discussed and we will build our actions beginning here with frequent requests for input from YOU in the future! Your voice matters!

Organizational Structure Definitions, Roles, Responsibilities

a. Share the workload across enough people that none of us will be too overwhelmed. c. be clear about what we are and what we are not. Don’t duplicate work. d. recognizing and naming where we intersect in EE and Mainstream education. Define our field. x. annual newsletter/bi monthly board zoom/quarterly member zoom z. divide and conquer board volunteers similar to EECO divisions and operate similar or mirror like ways just for a younger ECE audience

Vision, Mission, Philosophy/Values, Goals

b. focus on the priorities of practitioners and elevating the voices of people doing the work in the field (and forest :) )

e. Work with partners in both genres to increase the capacity of nature-based education. (see also “Relationships”)

f. Work with EE partners to recognize the specific DAP needed with the ECE population. g. Work with mainstream educators to increase nature time. h. Recognize the reality that not ALL students can attend nature-preschools; Support capacity building in NbECE programs that accept publicly funded children, support other ECE programs around nature experiences, child-led in all settings. k. Generally work to swing the pendulum back to a more natural way of educating, living, differentiating instruction and diversifying the field. (see also, “Advocacy”) n. attend training that informs my work and pushes me to learn more and be a better teacher-aren’t the same old ECE stuff.

t. collective voice of nature based ece to promote, support and lead in areas of increasing access to safe places to learn in/with natural spaces and materials, r. Seeking alternative licensure and certifications for outdoor early education programs and educators. (see also, “Advocacy”)

u. professional development opportunities to support and guide teaching in/with natural spaces/materialsRelationships/ Partnershipse. Work with partners in both genres to increase the capacity of nature-based education. (see also “Vision, Mission, Philosophy…”)

o. I want to connect regularly with friends in the field and experience connection to nature with people who GET IT.


s. to have a stronger collaborative

w. NB Teacher training and certification at EHOVE and Firelands BGSU y. connections with Ohio Department of Health, metro parks, and Soil Water Conservation Districts, and Friends of Old Woman Creek State NERRAdvocacy

i. Have a national presence in conversations and movements. j. Legitimize to stakeholders around the state the quality and JOY in NbECE (OAEYC, ODJFS, ODE). k. Generally work to swing the pendulum back to a more natural way of educating, living, differentiating instruction and diversifying the field. (see also, “Vision, Mission…”) l. Identifying and executing ways to diversify our workforce. m. Increase wages in NbECE to align with other public institutions. p. Licensure for natural outdoor family childcare q. start thinking about language for proposals to incorporate nature-based ideas/standards into Ohio's program licensing, SUTQ, and Ohio Early Learning Standards. r. Seeking alternative licensure and certifications for outdoor early education programs and educators. (see also, “Vision, Mission…”)

v. licensure advocacy both w/in current ODJFS/ODE guidelines and perhaps in parallel look to amend or create new guidelines for outdoor programs

Network News!

In the fall of 2021, we came together in a leadership team and discussed HOW our group should function. Taking the lead from other groups, who have embraced a “power with and for” as opposed to a traditional/western “power over” structure, our group has agreed to a more matrilineal leadership structure where labor is clearly divided, supported by all and we strive for consensus building. As many of us break away from traditional education models, our leadership team felt drawn to a more team centered method of collective work. This winter, we are working on updating our vision and mission statement to reflect this way of leading.

At our March meeting, we’ll be firming up roles and responsibilities so that there are clear “go-to” people for the larger collaborative membership. Our leadership group has committed to communicating with YOU, the ONbECE Collaborative, consistently via email and Facebook after each meeting (Jan, March, May, July, Sept, Nov) with a brief overview or newsletter. We look forward to in person meetings, especially at July’s Natural Start conference in Cincinnati! We plan to keep the July meeting as a whole group collaborative event and also hope to support regional meet ups when they make sense. Groups in Ohio are planning tours, so stay tuned.

Train the Trainer

Meredith Florkey from Ohio Naturally LLC and the wonderful staff at Child Care Choices are co-sponsoring a Train the Trainer ONLINE event. If you are interested in attending, please contact Meredith at Once we have a group of folks, we will schedule around them. There will likely be a small fee of less than $10 to reimburse Childcare Choices for their time.

Goals of this event are to:

  • Help experienced nature-based ECE educators create meaningful training for both nature-based folks and mainstream educators.

  • Help navigate the OCCRRA and required Early Learning and Development Standards

  • Practice organizing and delivering training to increase the quality of nature-based opportunities when we need to attend PD.

  • Create collectively a set of Ohio Approved Trainings that our group can refer regional and state folks to.

  • Provide a small income source for our members.

  • Increase networking with Resource and Referral agencies, OAEYC, and child care centers/directors around the state.

Save the Date for Summer July 27-30! The Natural Start 2022 Conference is hosted in our HOME state!

Article to share out that the leadership team found helpful.

"Does your nature-based program have upcoming available positions?” We have a job posting tab on our website! We get several Ohio field job inquiries! Send Meredith Florkey the following at:

1) The title of your school

2) Location (city)

3) Link to your website

4) Job description (making sure there is a contact included)

Send your challenge and success stories/pictures of nature based outdoor learning in winter!,

Thanks to Michelle Bock for writing and creating this document.

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