Come and play!
Hosted by Chicago Zoological Society - Brookfield Zoo
April 11-16, 2016
NatureStart is a professional development program focusing on
skill development for informal educators in zoos, aquariums, and 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 and play-based learning environments and
settings for young children and families in AZA institutions.
Participant 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
- 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 nonverbally) 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
Is This Course Right For You?
This course is designed for any zoo and aquarium professional with responsibilities for early childhood and family programs or who interact with young children and their families on a regular basis. To maximize success in implementing the concepts and programming discussed in the course, AZA 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 to help make this a possibility for as many course participants as possible.
Marilyn Brink, Manager, Professional Development & Early Childhood - CZL - Brookfield Zoo
David Becker, Sr Manager of Learning Experiences - CZL - Brookfield Zoo
Family Play Program Facilitators from Hamill Family Play Zoo, Chicago Zoological Society
None. Priority will be given to individuals associated with AZA accredited institutions. International applicants and those not affiliated with an AZA accredited institution will be considered on a case-by-case basis; please submit a letter describing your intended benefit from taking this course to firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration.
5:30-9:00 PM - Icebreaker, Dinner, & Opening Course Session
Tuesday through Friday
Classes meet all day
8:30-3:00 PM - Class meets
Registration & Logistics
Tuition & Expenses
The AZA registration fee above covers tuition for the course, lunch each day, and dinner on the first and last evening. Other expenses include hotel, travel, and additional meals. Scholarship funding is available through a competitive process.
Early Bird Rates:
$950 for AZA Individual Members
$1050 for Non-members
$1050 for AZA Individual Members
$1150 for Non-members
For this course, a second participant from an institution pays half of the applicable rate. You will receive a discount code in the first registrant's confirmation e-mail. Enter this code when registering the second participant to receive this discount.
Early bird registration deadline: 12 weeks prior to course start date
Final Registration deadline: 4 weeks prior to course start date
To pay by credit card:
You can now register and pay online with a credit card! Just log in to our new website. Non-members can log in too after creating an account. After logging in, choose "Upcoming Events" from the menu on the left. Next, click on the title of the event for which you would like to register. Finally, choose "Event Registration" from the options at the top and complete the registration process. When registering online, there is no need to submit the registration form.
To pay by check or purchase order:
Download the NatureStart COURSE REGISTRATION FORM and return by mail with check or purchase order. Checks sent for course payment will be cashed immediately upon receipt as per standard business practices. Cashing your check does not indicate that you have been accepted into a course. You will receive an acceptance email or wait list email once acceptance decisions are made.
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. Course participants stay at the designated hotel and a shuttle will transport participants to and from the Brookfield Zoo daily.
Please wait until you are admitted into the course before making your reservations. You will receive an email containing detailed information regarding your accommodations and transportation once you are admitted.
For additional details please contact the AZA Professional Development Department or call (301) 562-0777 ext 251.