"WONDER-lings" Nature-based Early Childhood Training & Certification Program 

Thank you for your interest in the "WONDER-lings" certification program. 

Below you can find more information about the program.

Unfortunately, we are not currently offering this full course. But in March 2023 we will offer a condensed version during our Nature and Outdoor Learning Summit.

If you would like to receive updates regarding this program, please sign up for our newsletter HERE!

Thank you to our amazing partners!! 

Program Overview

Nature Niños New Mexico, along with the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, is proud to announce that the second year of our WONDER-lings Nature & Place-based Early Childhood Education (NPbECE) Certification program is now open for registration! We are working toward a goal that every preschool & elementary school program in New Mexico have a certified Nature Niños Mentor that has completed the WONDER-lings Nature & Place-based program and is able to guide and mentor the other educators in their community to creating a academic space where nature is considered the Third Teacher. 

The WONDER-lings program aims to assist professionals working with young children in discovering the joy of WONDER in nature together. We will learn how to support Wonder & Observation in Nature, as well as children's Discovery, Exploration & Reflection, using nature as a Third Teacher. Teaching with nature as an ally is proven to increase child health, creativity, problem-solving, and social-emotional growth. Nature Preschools and "Forest Kindergartens" are increasing in popularity across the United States and this is in part because parents, educators, program administrators, and even doctors / health professionals are remembering what has been true for millennia: Young children "naturally" learn best when their interests are honored, when they are given frequent access to nature, and while playing outdoors, year-round, in all weather, with peers and adults who wonder alongside them .

This training program, consisting of one topic module per month for six months, along with a self-selected "Harvest Project" completed under the mentorship of Nature Niños staff (if the certification path is chosen), will prepare the Early Childhood professional to bring nature into existing programs as a Third Teacher, as well as bring children out into nature, both nearby and further afield. The program is co-facilitated by two accomplished educators, with significant contributions shared by other local and national partners who work in the Nature and Place-based Early Childhood Education field.


There are three different options for how you can participate in our course!

Full-Certification Track

Non-Certification Track

Drop-In Courses

(See below for more details)

Each track will have the same topic modules offered:

  1. The Need for Nature & A Sense of Place

  2. Powering a Nature Play Revolution, part I 

  3. Emergent Curriculum: Nature as Third Teacher & Teacher as Researcher

  4. Nearby Nature 

  5. Further & Far Away Nature 

  6. Powering a Nature Play Revolution, part II: Focus on supporting Risky and Adventurous Play in Young Children 

Participants that choose the Full-Certification Track will have an additional two months added to their course time. During these two months they will have the opportunity to be mentored and supported in the development and implementation of a "Harvest Project". This is a self-selected project focused on a personal and/or child area of interest that the participant researches, designs, and begins to implement in their existing early childhood program or community, with the expert assistance of our course facilitators. The aim of the Harvest Project is to take the WONDER-lings teachings "live" by immediately creating increased opportunities for children to connect to the natural world through school gardening, natural loose parts play, nature-scaping the playground, walking field trips, nature journaling, Tea Time, Sit Spots, Forest Fridays, etc. These are just a few of the Harvest Projects that our former WONDER-lings participants initiated!

Course Schedule

All classes will begin at 6PM MST

  • 1st Wednesday of the Month: 2 hr. Topic Module- live class via Zoo

  • 2nd Wednesday of the Month: 1 hr. Rabbit Hole

  • 3rd Wednesday of the Month: 1 hr. T.E.A Chat

  • 4th Wednesday of the Month: 1hr. Harvest Project Planning & Mentoring Time

Rabbit Hole Schedule 

(Mandatory for Certification Track)

Once a month we go down the rabbit hole together, by examining a sub-topic related to the month's main theme, by taking a deeper dive into something we just touched upon during the topic evening, or by exploring an entirely new topic related to nature, place, education, and/or early childhood. Often, we host special guests for our rabbit holes, such as acclaimed author and researcher Dr. Ruth Wilson, trail-blazing author and professor David Sobel, or Loose Parts Play expert Carla Gull. These rabbit holes are casual, conversational, and a unique feature of our training program.

  • Indigenous Perspectives on Land & Learning

  • Designing for & Supporting Loose Parts Play

  • Wondering Together (A deeper look at questioning strategies, teaching techniques, NPbECE pedagogy, & curriculum offerings)

  • Art & Ecology

  • Managing for RAP (A deeper look at supporting risky & adventurous play & tools to manage it in any setting)

  • Wonderlings Pick (We custom-design a Rabbit Hole based on participant feedback)

T.E.A Time

The third Wednesday of each month we host our monthly tea and chat, our spin on a book/reading club. Together we Talk about, Explore, and Affirm / Act upon the information and knowledge gleaned from the monthly readings / viewings. T.E.A is a wonderful time to synthesize new ideas!

Certification Track Options

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