Events & Exhibits

Calendar: Event Details


Event Dates
March 15; 12:30 pm - 6:30 pm

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Event Sponsors:

Educators' Conference: Natural Connections - Day 1

March 15, 12:30 - 6:30pm


Presented by Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, St. Joseph’s Villa, and Region 1 of the Virginia Association of Science Teachers.

Online registration is CLOSED.  A limited number of walk-in registrations will be accepted.

Friday, March 15, 12:30 - 6:30pm
St. Joseph's Villa, $25

Friday At A Glance (5.0 CEUs)
Friday afternoon at St. Joseph’s Villa focuses on using outdoor learning and horticultural therapy to enrich academic and therapeutic curriculum for children with special needs.

12:30  Check-In at St. Joseph’s Villa
1:00    Welcome
1:15    Workshop A (choose from three topics)
2:30    Workshop B (choose from three topics)
4:00    Keynote Address
5:00    Evening Reception and Book Sales/Signing
6:30    Adjourn

Workshop A  1:15 – 2:30pm (Select one of the following options)

1 - Introduction to Horticultural Therapy
Gwenn Fried 
Horticultural Therapy has been used to improve well-being of patients for centuries. Today horticulture is used in programs in hospitals, schools, residential and vocational settings to encourage positive outcomes for all involved. This over-view will touch on the history of using horticulture as a therapeutic intervention. The attendees will go on a virtual “tour” of intriguing horticulture programs touching on benefits for each population.

2 - Outdoor Play and Attention: Refocusing Recess
Emily Stanley
Children with ADD/ADHD are often described as needing to "blow off steam" during school recesses. However, this industrial-age metaphor is no longer adequate to describe the many different ways that children with attentional difficulties may benefit from outdoor play in school settings. Based on studies conducted at the Jemicy School in Owings Mills, Maryland, this presentation will illustrate a range of activities that students at the school pursue during outdoor recesses and their mediating effects on children's attention and behavior, both in and out of the classroom. It will also offer strategies for identifying and enhancing specific play affordances in the schoolyard for elementary and middle school students with ADD/ADHD.

3 - Cultivating Creative Expression Outdoors
Kristin Mullen 
Venture onto the grounds of St. Joseph’s Villa to participate in nature-based creative art activities that support the emotional, physical and mental well-being of special needs learners. Learn how to use any outdoor space to effectively engage the senses while facilitating activities such as journaling, drawing/painting, dramatic play, and music. No creative arts skills or expertise required!

Workshop B  2:30 – 3:45pm (Select one of the following options)

1 - Horticulture and Autism Spectrum Disorders
Gwenn Fried
NYU has been at the forefront of development when it comes to horticulture programs for children with autism spectrum disorders. Nature provides a unique opportunity to engage, encourage and educate children while helping them reach their potential and beyond. This interactive discussion will look at some of our most successful programs and give participants ideas that they can generalize to their own programs.

2 - Outdoor Play and Learning Differences: Playing Outside the Box
Emily Stanley
What is the significance of play, particularly outdoor play, for students with learning differences? Outdoor play has garnered considerable attention in light of recent reports on the physical, social and emotional risks of reduced play opportunities for children. This workshop focuses on the importance of play for children with language-based and other learning differences. For these students play is a vital element in fostering the interwoven language-based, environmental, and social literacies that comprise childhood competency, health and happiness. The workshop also offers tools and ideas for implementing and sustaining effective outdoor play strategies in a variety of school settings.

3 - Outdoor Learning for Students with Behavioral Challenges  FULL
Kristi Orcutt 
Don’t be afraid to lead outdoor activities with students with behavioral challenges! Learn effective techniques to safely and confidently venture out-of-doors to explore, investigate, and learn with both individuals and groups Learn how to use any outdoor space, no matter how limited, as an educational and therapeutic tool and discover how exploring the natural world sparks curiosity, fosters collaboration, nurtures compassion for others, and generates a sense of connectedness with the wider world.

Keynote Presentation
Friday, March 15

Lens on Outdoor Learning: A Closer Look
Ginny Sullivan, Landscape Designer, Learning By the Yard and co-author, Lens on Outdoor Learning

With an introduction by David Sobel, Ginny Sullivan will discuss how nature-based, hands-on education creates powerful, memorable, and lasting learning experiences for children of all backgrounds, learning styles, and abilities.  Ginny Sullivan will address how nature programs can fulfill all core learning standards that educators are required to meet. Focusing on the Approaches to Learning Domain, she will present examples of how children engage with ideas in a rich natural environment, and how educators can support children’s work and play outside.  Careful observation and documentation of children’ s outdoor experience supports the assertion that the essential tools for lifelong learning—curiosity, flexibility, imagination, reasoning and problem solving—arise naturally as children explore and express themselves outside. By applying the early learning standards to what children do and say outdoors, we see what an efficient and well-designed environment nature is for both playing and learning.

David Sobel is Senior Faculty in the Education Department at Antioch University New England in Keene, NH and he consults and speaks widely on child development and place-based education with schools, environmental organizations and the National Park Service. Over the last 30 years, he has authored seven books and more than 60 articles focused on children and nature for educators, parents, environmentalists and school administrators. His most recent books are Place-based Education: Connecting Classrooms and Communities published by the Orion Society, Childhood and Nature: Design Principles for Educators published by Stenhouse and Wild Play, Parenting Adventures in the Great Outdoors published by Sierra Books.

Ginny Sullivan, co-principal of Learning by the Yard (, is an early childhood educator with advanced degrees in curriculum development and ecological landscape design. She has taught young children, trained teachers and parents in child development and landscape design, and run schools in both New England and California. She is both a graduate and a trustee of the Conway School of Landscape Design and has completed course work for a PhD in the College of Design at North Carolina State University, where her particular research interest is the natural world as a context for children’s language and cognitive development. She serves on the professional development committee of the North Carolina Outdoor Learning Environments Alliance (NCOLEA) and is co-author of Lens on Outdoor Learning (, 2010).

Workshop Presenters for March 15

Gwenn Fried has been a horticultural therapist for over 18 years. She is employed by NYU Langone Medical Center since and Project FIND in NYC. She specializes in innovative program development children, adults and seniors. A member of the faculty of Chicago Botanic Garden’s Healthcare Garden Design Program, Gwenn teaches, consults and lectures internationally on therapeutic garden design and horticultural therapy.

 Kristin Mullen is the Early Childhood Program Developer in the Children’s Garden at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden (LGBG) in Richmond, Virginia. With a B.A. in History and Anthropology from the University of Virginia, she has taught all ages and abilities in a variety of informal educational institutions with a focus on environmental education for the past 10 years. Along with developing and implementing nature-based experiences for youth audiences at LGBG, she designs and facilitates educator workshops that immerse participants in the practical application of outdoor learning. She recently presented at the National Children & Youth Garden Symposium and facilitated an outdoor workshop for the University of Richmond’s Sustainability & Nature Institute for Educators.

 Kristi Orcutt is the Children’s Garden Program Developer at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. For over 20 years, Kristi has served as a naturalist, educator, horticulturalist, teacher workshop facilitator, outdoor adventure leader and environmental advocate in the Richmond, Virginia region. Earning her B.S. in Biology from Virginia Commonwealth University, Kristi has applied her field ecology experience to connecting adults, seniors and children of all abilities with nature, fostering a sense of wonderment, appreciation, and stewardship

 Emily Stanley is a science teacher and department chair, education researcher, and consultant at the Jemicy School, a small school near Baltimore serving children with dyslexia and other language-based learning differences.  She earned her PhD in Environmental Studies from Antioch University New England with research on school community values and children's outdoor recess choices.  Her work, which focuses on the affordances of natural play areas and their relationship to environmental education, has been presented in peer-reviewed journals and at national conferences on green schools, play, and learning differences.  Emily has partnered with organizations such as the Maryland Zoo, Cylburn Arboretum, Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education, Irvine Nature Center, KaBOOM!, and Creative City Public Charter School to promote play-based and environmental education initiatives in the Chesapeake Bay region.