Improving Teacher Capacity for Early Childhood Nature-Based Education Through a Professional Learning Community

Felicia M Vinces, Fordham University


Preschool programs, as they have rapidly become more academically oriented, are squarely centered in a debate about developmentally appropriate practices in early childhood. Nature-based preschools are increasingly embraced by parents as a healthy choice compared to more academically focused programs. The Whitaker Preparatory School, a pseudonym, had the resources to incorporate nature-based curricula into their Early Childhood Program (nursery, pre-kindergarten, and kindergarten); however, attention to and integration of nature-based learning into the nursery, pre-kindergarten, and kindergarten academic program was limited. To address this Problem of Practice, an Improvement Science approach was adopted using a mixed methods methodology. The Theory of Action was that if teachers were led through professional learning experiences that were focused on nature-based education, then more academic activities would be promoted by and connected to student experiences in nature. The primary driver was a Professional Learning Community that incorporated professional development that focused on nature-based education and emergent curriculum. As a result of the intervention, teacher self-efficacy increased 36% with regard to planning and leading nature-based instruction. Teachers embraced and grew in their ability to align nature-based education, emergent curricula, and traditional academic subjects. They became comfortable letting students lead the learning process and worked to encourage student reflection. They became enthusiastic about creating student portfolios and aligning them vertically. Finally, the PLC structure brought focus and continuity to teacher meetings, a practice they intended to bring into future practice.

Subject Area

Early childhood education|Educational evaluation

Recommended Citation

Vinces, Felicia M, "Improving Teacher Capacity for Early Childhood Nature-Based Education Through a Professional Learning Community" (2021). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI28870048.