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Features

Natural Beginnings lead teacher presents at preschool conference

Megan Gessler was a presenting speaker at the 2015 National Nature-Based Preschool Conference.
Megan Gessler was a presenting speaker at the 2015 National Nature-Based Preschool Conference.

Megan Gessler, manager and lead teacher of Natural Beginnings Early Learning Program, recently traveled to Gainesville, Ga., as a presenting speaker at the 2015 National Nature-Based Preschool Conference.

Gessler represented both the Kendall County Forest Preserve District, home of Natural Beginnings, and the Northern Illinois Nature Preschool Association.  

In presenting the conclusion of the final seminar, Gessler detailed how she and Natural Beginnings have partnered with other local organizations – from Red Oak Nature Center’s preschool to the Morton Arboretum and the Chicago Botanic Garden – to share ideas and resources at a regional level.

"Megan was a great addition to the planning committee for the National Nature Preschool Conference. Her work on a regional level in creating NINPA is not only inspirational to other leaders, but provides the framework for getting started. Her presentation brought that to life for the conference attendees in a fun and energizing way. It was impressive the expanse of ideas that were generated during her session, and that people have already started implementing,” said Rachel Larimore, director of education at Chippewa Nature Center and author of "Establishing a Nature-Based Preschool."

Gessler is currently working on her Master’s of Education from Antioch University New England, where there is specific instruction on running a nature-based early childhood education program.

“I have always loved the outdoors and I enjoy working with young children. It is a blessing to find a profession where your passion and your job duties unite. I am excited to see where the future of nature-based education is headed and I want to be a part of it,” said Gessler.

In 2013, Gessler founded the Northern Illinois Nature Preschool Association in hopes of finding other nature-based preschools to connect with. NINPA now has over 30 members from more than 15 different facilities/programs. As nature-based education is on the rise, NINPA strives to set standards for the profession through professional development opportunities, curriculum sharing, networking opportunities, and resource sharing. For more information, email ninpainfo@gmail.com.

As part of the Kendall County Forest Preserve District, Natural Beginnings is located on the county’s largest forest preserve, consisting of over 400 acres. Hoover Forest Preserve provides an unparalleled location for nature-based learning. Children will discover the wonder and beauty found in Hoover’s prairies, woodland trails and creeks, as well as the Fox River. This program is designed to encourage children to explore the connections between their lives and the world around them. For more information, email mgessler@co.kendall.il.us.

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