University of Cincinnati Announces First Online Early Childhood Education Degree With a Nature-Based Early Learning Concentration

University of Cincinnati (UC) Online is pleased to announce a new nature-based early learning concentration in the Associate and Bachelor's in Early Childhood Education (Birth-Age 5) programs.

UC is the first university in the United States to offer nature-based, online early childhood education degrees.

"Nature-based learning in the early childhood education (ECE) profession is growing," says UC's Program Coordinator Kathleen Bryan. "The laboratory child development center at UC, the Arlitt Center for Education, Research, and Sustainability, is one of the oldest in the United States and is at the forefront for demonstrating practice in this field."

Bryan says research affirms children's need to be immersed in nature to learn about the world around them and develop a sustainability ethic for the Earth. "This degree will equip our students with environmental knowledge, eco-pedagogies, and resources to teach and administer formal and informal learning settings where nature is embraced — from programs with green playgrounds to forest schools," Bryan says.

Bryan believes the nature-based emphasis of UC Online's degrees will benefit educators by equipping them with needed skills. Bryan says, "Studies show teachers need environmental knowledge and pedagogies to effectively engage children in nature-based learning that reflects best practices in the field."

The curriculum builds on the essential developmentally appropriate practices core of the UC Online programs:

  • Implementing a play-based approach to learning.
  • Supporting children to reach their full potential across all domains of development.
  • Designing and implementing high-quality learning environments.
  • Inclusive of all families to be culturally, linguistically, and ability appropriate.

The aim is for graduates to become comfortable in the role of teacher/naturalist educators who can plan and implement progressive and interdisciplinary curricula in natural settings in ways that view children as capable, able to problem-solve, and make decisions that affect their own lives.

Coursework builds upon professional practice standards and research studies — specifically, studies conducted on teachers' and children's experiences in nature playscapes and at a nature preschool by faculty and researchers at the Arlitt Center. This research was supported, in part, by the National Science Foundation.

According to the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE), over the past three years, nature-based preschools, forest kindergartens, and outdoor preschools in the U.S. have more than doubled to 585. Nature preschools can be found in nearly every state in the nation. Over the past decade, this growth represents a nearly 25-fold increase in nature-based schools.*

About UC Online and the ECE Degrees

More than 20 years ago, UC became one of the first U.S. institutions to offer online courses. UC Online's BSEd in Early Childhood Care & Education is ranked as the 2nd Best Online Bachelor's in Early Childhood Education by The AAS in Early Childhood Care & Education program is consistently ranked as a Top 15 Best Online Associate in ECE.

*NAAEE. (2020). Nature-Based Preschools in the US: 2020 Snapshot. Washington, DC: NAAEE.


Source: University of Cincinnati Online

About University of Cincinnati Online

The University of Cincinnati Online is dedicated to providing a world-class educational experience that provides flexibility for busy professionals, lifelong learners, and students from around the world.

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