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  • Writer's pictureMeredith Florkey

ONbECE Newsletter 9-September 6&20, 2023

Updated: Sep 27, 2023

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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