Safety and Healthy Risk-Taking in Nature-Based Education

Natural Start Staff


Enjoy a two-part session on safety and healthy risk-taking in nature-based programs, presented by Anne Stires and Amy Butler as a part of our NatStart2020 Virtual Conference. Anne and Amy were both on the writing team for the Natural Start Alliance’s published work, the Nature-Based Preschool Professional Practice Guidebook. The Guidebook focuses on four domains: Teaching, Environments, Safety and Administration. The goal of these two sessions is to provide examples of the practices outlined in the Safety section of the Guidebook, which was written collaboratively by Anne, Amy, and Kit Harrington.
Part One—before even attempting any outdoor learning—asks participants to develop their “why,” highlights the importance of training, pre-program planning, and development of reflective practice.
Part Two goes—and stays—outside!  Anne and Amy discuss building awareness by learning risk management with students, safe ratios and supervision, and the importance of building program resiliency.
These two webinars are not replacements for in-person and interactive training on mitigating hazards and risk-taking in your program. Amy and Anne suggest  finding recommended training for your teachers and administration that puts into action the practices found in the Nature-Based Preschool Professional Practice Guidebook

View the recording of Part One: 



Download the slides from Part One


View the recording of Part Two: 



Download the slides from Part Two


About the Presenters: 


Amy Butler, The North Branch Nature Center
Amy Butler is the Director of Education at North Branch Nature Center in Montpelier, VT. As a young child, Amy loved catching snakes and riding her banana-seat bike in the woods of Central New York. Her dream job has always been to work outside, all day, in all kinds of weather. She started her work with North Branch Nature Center in 2010 by founding and developing the ECO program in partnership with area public schools. Amy’s vision is to see that all school children in Vermont have connected to the natural world by opening their doors and stepping into the landscape that surrounds their communities. Amy is a guest teacher and lecturer for Antioch University and brings NBNC’s story and mission of the importance of nature connection to conferences throughout the US. She is a regional Vermont chapter leader for Inside Outside Nature-based Educators of New England, serves on the advisory council for Natural Start Alliance, and was one of the contributing writers to Natural Start Alliance’s Nature-Based Preschool Professional Practice Guidebook. Amy has lived with her family at the base of Spruce Mountain in Plainfield for 20 years. She fully embraces the benefits of healthy risk-taking and can be found trail running or backcountry skiing on Vermont’s most precarious terrain in every season.
Anne M Stires, Juniper Hill School for Place-Based Education, Antioch University New England
Anne Stires, M.Ed. is the Founding Director of the Juniper Hill School for Place-Based Education in Alna, Maine. She has worked as an educator and director for several environmental stewardship programs, directed a Place-Based Education program for 25 schools in the mid-coast region of Maine, and was a early childhood and elementary classroom teacher for 20 years in public and independent schools (including Bank Street School for Children). Stires opened Juniper Hill in 2011 and wrote the first chapter in David Sobel’s book, 'Nature Preschools and Forest Kindergartens: The Handbook for Outdoor Learning' (2015), that features Juniper Hill School. Anne also teaches "Risk Management in Nature-Based Early Childhood Programs" and "Natural History: Teaching in Winter" for Antioch University in Keene, NH as an adjunct faculty member in the Nature-based Early Childhood Certificate Program. She is regularly a featured speaker at many regional and national nature-based education conferences and director of teacher training onsite at Juniper Hill School.