Bright Ideas

Association of Zoos and Aquariums at the 2019 Natural Start Conference

Natural Start Staff

Photo by: St. Louis Zoo



Nature preschools are popping up across the country, with over a dozen nature preschools and many more early childhood programs at AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums. Natural Start is thrilled that AZA institutions will be well represented at the 2019 Nature-Based Early Learning Conference this summer in Manchester, NH.


Catch a sneak peek at a few sessions led by zoo and aquarium professionals, below:




Nature Preschools at Your Zoo & Aquarium

Heidi Faris; Lauren Magliola; Amy Greene; Amanda McMickle; Laura Seger - Association of Zoos and Aquariums

Zoos and aquariums have created innovative ways to connect visitors to nature. Hear from AZA-accredited facilities that connect children & families to nature in urban areas, through community partners, and through nature preschool programs.


Animal ABC's: The Science of Teaching Nature to Children Using Theater

Emilie Hanson - Central Park Zoo

Learn how the Central Park Zoo uses theater to foster a love for the natural world with children unable to leave their classrooms. Join us as we discuss the process of creating theatrical program for children ages 2-5. Watch snippets of our shows to inspire you to use theater yourself!




Becoming the Beast: Encouraging Pretend Play to Foster Empathy for Living Things

Amanda Segura - Riverbanks Zoo and Garden

Discover techniques for kids to explore their natural surroundings through pretend play, by immersing themselves into the lives of the plants and animals around us. Learn how to guide children on hikes and focus their attention on a topic through stories, natural items, and exploratory tools.


Assessment Isn't a Dirty Word (But it Can be a Muddy One)!

Laura Seger, Kelsey Navin - St. Louis Zoo

It’s easy to develop a negative impression of assessment but it can provide valuable info to educators and families. Just as we encourage children to be naturalists, observing and documenting the details of the natural world, we too can use these skills to learn more about our students as they grow.




Playful Inquiry: A Playful Approach to Scientific Inquiry and Exploration

Linda Kinney; Kathy Osborne - North Carolina Zoo

Playful approaches to learning allow children to play with ideas, experiment, and initiate investigations. Using methods used in the playwork profession, participants will look at ways they can playfully support children’s opportunities to explore the questions they care about outdoors.





Animal Mini-Ventures! (Poster Session)

Emilie Hanson - Wildlife Conservation Society

At the Central Park Zoo, we have created theatrical performances specially designed to be successful within Early Childhood classrooms. We will discuss best practices in educational theater, and how we adapted and wrote our theatrical programming for children ages 2-6.


View the complete program for the 2019 Conference here: