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3rd Annual Early Childhood Outside 2014 Conference: The Arts in Nature



When: Saturday, April 26 2014 from 8:30am - 1pm
Where: Westlawn Elementary School, 3200 Westley Road, Falls Church, VA 22042
Registration is now closed, but you can still join us even if you missed the cut-off! Walk-ins welcome! You can pay at the door tomorrow. Please email Sissy Walker at if you have questions. 

This year NoVA Outside’s Early Childhood conference explores the arts and learning through the arts. What better place for art than the outdoors? Exuberant and boisterous or contemplative and inspired, in all its forms, dance, music, storytelling, drama, poetry, drawing, painting, sculpture, and weaving - there are many great reasons to experience the arts outdoors.
This year's conference will feature:

* Keynote by Amanda Whiteman, Wolf Trap Master Teaching Artist, from Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning through the Arts
* Informative breakout sessions
* Hands-on outdoor learning stations, featuring The Earth Loom: learn more about the Earth Loom here.
* The beautiful, teacher-created natural playspace at Westlawn Elementary School
* Practical ideas you can implement in YOUR program!
Come to learn, explore and be inspired by the Arts in Nature!



                                                                                                           EarthLoom by Kreg McCune,
                                                                                                       Tremont Elementary School Maine.

                                                                                                             Photo: Cheryl Corson Design


Many Thanks to:


All of our presenters and volunteers

Our Featured Sponsor~ Wolf Trap Center for Early Learning through the Arts

Our Hosts~ Westlawn Elementary School

and Fairfax County Public Schools Get To Green Program

and our NoVA Outside sponsors: EarlySpace, LLC and Smart Garden Signs

We absolutely could not present this conference without your generous support.



8:30 Registration Opens
         Enjoy coffee, tea and snacks and explore the resource tables (lobby)


9:00  Welcome and Keynote: (cafeteria) 
          Dancing Through the Natural World:
          Nature and Child Initiated Choreography

          by Amanda Whiteman, Wolf Trap Master Teaching Artist

         Discover how dance can communicate changes in nature! Participate in the process of creating child-initiated choreography

         through observation, discovery and exploration of the natural world and the inherent connections to the elements of dance.


10:00 Break: Refreshments, Networking, Resource browsing


10:15 Breakout sessions
          Look Closely: Honing Children’s Observation Skills
          with Peggy Ashbrook & Angela Venier

          Help children to focus on the wonders of the natural world through drawing. (classroom)


         The Benefits of Outdoor Learning in an Elementary School
         with Carol Hunt and Libby Hagen

         Learn about planning, building and experiencing an outdoor space where students use their natural tendencies to become

         scientists, mathematicians, authors and illustrators, storytellers, artists, inventors, problem solvers, and thinkers.  Find out how to

         use the outdoor spaces in your school to enhance and enrich the curriculum.  Collect lessons demonstrating how the SOL’s can

         be mastered through outdoor learning (classroom).


        Outdoor Music?  Of Course! (Learn all about it here!)
        with Gail Multop
        Music has always been an integral part of early childhood.  Why abandon it when children go out to play?  See how you can integrate

        music and instruments made from found objects into your outdoor environment and use them to motivate children to learn.  (classroom)


       Designing Natural Arts Spaces
       with Nancy Striniste
       Through images and discussion we will explore how a well-designed outdoor space can support a range of learning and play

       opportunities, with a special focus on spaces for outdoor art (classroom).


      Story boxes: Looking Beyond the Book, Thinking Inside the Box
      with Amanda Whiteman
      Learn how props, children's literature, and the elements of dance can facilitate sensory and creative experiences that ignite

      children's imagination and understanding of the environment, nature and scientific inquiry. (gym)


11:15 Break: Refreshments, Networking and Resources

11:30 Self Guided Tour and Hands-on Skill-building Sessions
           freely rotate to each station


          Earth Loom
         with Cheryl Corson in the Discovery Area
         Weave with nature as you weave community.


         Ephemeral Art
         with Peggy Ashbrook and Angela Venier in the Discovery Area
         Experience the learning possibilities of creating and documenting temporary
         art from natural materials in the outdoor environment.

        Nature and Creative Movement:  Imagine it, Live it, Learn it!
        with Sarah Glassco in the Discovery Area
        Using vivid imagery combined with music and movement, Sarah Glassco helps children internalize natural science lessons and

        embrace the  natural world. Participate in guided visualizations, and learn how music and movement enrich and deepen the experiences.
        Take home a resource list including suggested music and guidelines for developing your own imagination lessons.


        Q&A on Teaching Outside
        with Carol Hunt and Libby Hagen in the Discovery Area
        This is your opportunity to explore the Discovery Area closely and talk with the teachers who designed, created and use the space.


        Story-Telling and Story-Acting in the Outdoors
        with Sissy Walker on the hillside
        Learn Vivian Paley’s simple method for interweaving oral, written and dramatic languages in the out of doors.


       Drum Circle
       with Bill Jenkins in the courtyard
       In many parts of the world, music is not found in the concert hall. Learn how to engage your children in drums and percussion music

       in the outdoors. Using his extensive collection of musical instruments from around the world, Bill will show how different cultures use

       their natural materials to make musical instruments. After an introduction, everybody gets to play together!


12:45 Closing (at the Earth Loom)





Amanda Whiteman has been a Wolf Trap Master Teaching Artist since 2005, providing professional development workshops and classroom residencies all over the country which integrate the performing arts with literacy, math and science.  She has collaborated with Wolf Trap on a math focused research grant from The US Department of Education, evaluating STEM teaching through the performing arts. Amanda has been choreographing and teaching dance in Northern Virginia since 1998 in schools and community organizations such as Creative Cauldron, Reston’s Young Actor’s Theatre program and several area dance companies. In 2008, after years of working with young dancers in the community, Amanda founded GroundWorks Dance Ensemble as a way to bring together her work with students and professional dance artists. As artistic director, choreographer and playwright, Amanda’s work with GroundWorks strives to develop meaningful, artistic experiences for students and professional artists through collaboration and community building. Amanda holds a BFA in Dance and a BA in Integrated Studies with a specialization in Dance Therapy from George Mason University. In November 2013, Amanda presented the keynote address with her Wolf Trap colleagues at the National Association for the Education of Young Children conference in Washington, DC.


Peggy Ashbrook is an artist, an early childhood science teacher and writer, and a member of NoVA Outside's Early Childhood committee. She is an author (Science Is Simple, 2003, Gryphon House) and writes the National Science Teachers Association’s Early Years blog and the Early Years column in Science & Children. Peggy believes that art and science use many of the same practices and complement each other. She teaches in schools and provides professional development sessions on science inquiry.

Cheryl Corson is a local landscape architect and certified playground safety inspector (CPSI) in private practice since 2003.  She started weaving in 1979, and from 1980-1983 taught at a SoHo early childhood center while attending night school at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology.  She has designed, audited and inspected many area playgrounds and outdoor learning environments, and written about nature play, outdoor learning, and playground safety.  Now, bringing her friend Susan Barrett Merrill’s Earth Loom concept to the Mid-Atlantic, she is happily combining her love of weaving, landscape design and natural play (

Sarah Glassco has worked since 1981 as a naturalist and teacher at the Alexandria Buddie Ford Nature Center, Virginia Mason Neck State Park, and currently at Frog Pond Early Learning Center. Here she plans activities to teach science and nature concepts and reinforce early childhood learning skills for 18 month to 5 year-olds. She trains and advises teachers in nature and science subjects and nature connection mentoring. Throughout her career, Sarah has broadened her knowledge of nature lore, deepened her love of the natural world and taken great joy in sharing that love with others.


Libby Hagen has been an Early Years Educator for 14 years. Originally trained in England she values learning through play and is constantly researching and creating new play based activities to spark young learners’ creativity and critical thinking skills. Libby is presently collaborating with Carol Hunt and Caroline Gee to bring an outdoor natural playscape into life at Westlawn.  She is excited to see the impact such a playscape will have on the students and also the community.


Carol Hunt has been an early childhood educator for over 20 years in Richmond City Schools and Fairfax County Public Schools.  She owes her love of nature to her upbringing, which allowed for many hours of outdoor play and exploration.  While in her early teaching years, one of her first outdoor classroom experiences was taking 15 inner city kindergarteners with their parents on an overnight camping trip.  This love of nature has led her to recognize that nature is vital to a child’s development.  Her passion to connect children with nature has motivated her to help create the Westlawn Outdoor Classroom and Discovery Area.

Bill Jenkins is a musician and educator offering hands-on programs for all ages with his collection of over 200 instruments from around the world. Bill has been conducting workshops since 1985.  He is a member of the Society for Ethnomusicology and has presented at a wide range of festivals, schools and libraries including the Washington Folk Festival, The Takoma Park Folk Festival, Montgomery County Schools & Libraries, various federal departments and agencies, hundreds of public and private schools, preschools and daycare centers.


Gail Multop is an early childhood educator with extensive experience in arts-based learning and project work.  She teaches at the Clarendon Child Care Center and is also an adjunct professor of Early Childhood Education at Northern Virginia Community College, Loudoun Campus. Gail holds a BA in music focusing on voice from The Cleveland Institute of Music and an MEd in Early Childhood Education and Curriculum from George Mason University.  She recently completed her Certificate of Study from the Kennedy Center’s CETA program (Changing Education Through the Arts) and loves sharing her passion for opera with young children.


Sandra Redmore is Director of the Clarendon Child Care Center whose playground is a recipient of the 2012 NoVA Outside Green Schools Award.  When not playing in the mud with teachers and children on CCCC's natural playground, Sandra is a passionate advocate for outdoor learning as Co-chair of the NoVA Outside Early Childhood Committee, member of the NoVA Outside Board and of the Virginia Cooperative Preschool Council Board. She has a MA in Early Childhood Education from Lesley University.


Nancy Striniste is a landscape designer and former teacher.  She is founder and principal designer at EarlySpace, LLC (  She has designed and built a wide assortment of natural play and learning spaces for schools and early childhood programs throughout the Mid-Atlantic and since the 80’s has been teaching teachers about using space well. She has a BS in Education from Wheelock College and a Masters Degree in Sustainable Landscape Design from George Washington University.  She serves as Co-Chair of the NoVA Outside Early Childhood Committee and on the board of NoVA Outside.  She is passionate about involving communities in creating beautiful spaces and she loves to play in the mud.


Angela Venier is the Studio Teacher at Beverley Hills Church Preschool, a Reggio Emilia inspired school in Alexandria VA.  Her background in Fine Arts influences both her work with children and as a resource to the teaching staff. Angela sees outdoor play as an extension of the classroom and an opportunity for discovery, experimentation, and self-expression.  As an artist, Angela is inspired by organic forms and has spent much time studying plants and flowers.  Angela draws upon her own inspiration to help cultivate her students’ sense of wonder and their relationship with the world around them.


Sissy Walker is an early childhood consultant with over 20 years experience as an educator and preschool director. She serves as a Star Quality Mentor to centers and family child care providers through the Virginia Star Quality Improvement System (VSQI), and is involved with Alexandria's "Project Play" initiative seeking to promote young children’s active play, especially in the out of doors. A member of NoVA Outside's Early Childhood committee and trained as a Master Naturalist, Sissy is passionate and knowledgeable about connecting children and nature.