The NoVA Outdoor Educators committee connects educators, parents and others who work with school age children (K-12). We provide networking opportunities and access to green resources and specialists in our area across a variety of learning domains.

Through networking and professional development activities, NoVA Outdoor Educators provides opportunities for individuals and organizations to learn from each other, as well as from experts in outdoor and environmental education.

Upcoming Events

NoVA Outdoor Educators Workshops

Through a grant from the Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation, NoVA Outside is excited to offer free outdoor and environmental education workshops for both formal and informal educators. The workshops offer an opportunity to learn from professional outdoor educators, apply theory to personal practice, and share ideas with peers. Sessions are divided into two modules and include concepts such as cultivating inquiry, integrating learning, and fostering sustainability.

Module #1 took place in Spring 2021, and summaries of the sessions (and recordings, where available) can be found below. Educators who attended two sessions earned a free outdoor education resource book to use within their learning environment. In addition, educators who attended four sessions earned an environmental science kit of their choice.

Module #2 will include four sessions that will take place via Zoom on Thursday evenings, 5:30 pm-6:30 pm. Dates: October 21, October 28, November 4, and November 11. The sessions will focus on the following concepts:
10/21 – Session 1 – Inquiry and Engagement: Nurturing a Sense of Wonder
10/28 – Session 2 – Experiential Learning: Building a Sense of Place
11/4 – Session 3 – Integrated Learning: Making Connections and Broadening Perspectives
11/11 – Session 4 – Moving Towards Sustainability: Living and Acting in the World

Participants who attend all four of these sessions will receive a copy of “Nature Play at Home: Creating Outdoor Spaces that Connect Children with the Natural World,” by Nancy Striniste. (Offer limited to 30 people. If more than 30 people take part in all four workshops, we will select book recipients by a random drawing.)

Registration is now available online for Module #2.

These workshops are free to all! Click here to support the work of NoVA Outside. Even the smallest of donations makes a difference in connecting people to our natural environment. Thank you to Dominion Energy for their support of environmental education and stewardship in our community.

Previous Workshops

NoVA Outdoor Educators Workshop Series Kick off with Dr. Andrew Gilbert

As part of its Educators Workshop Series, NoVA Outside welcomed Dr. Andrew Gilbert from George Mason University on Feb. 24. Dr. Gilbert has been working in education for more than 25 years in numerous school contexts across the globe. His main research interests center on inquiry-based science instruction and facilitating pre-service teachers in the development of powerful science practice at the elementary and middle school levels. This has manifested in the exploration of wonder and emotion as a means to inspire science resistant students to engage in science as both a learner and teacher. He has published his work in a range of outlets including Journal of Research in Science Teaching, Curriculum Inquiry, Journal of Science Teacher Education and Science Education. He is also the author of the book titled: Courageous Pedagogy: Enacting Critical Science Education with Information Age Publishing.

Dr. Gilbert shared from his wealth of experience working with the idea of wonder. View a recording of his presentation here.

Picture of Dr. Andrew Gilbert
Andrew Gilbert, Associate Professor, Elementary Education, College of Education and Human Development. College of Education and Human Development headshots. Photo by Evan Cantwell/Creative Services/George Mason University

NoVA Outdoor Educators Workshop: Session 2 with Mary Ann Settlemyre

Mary Ann Settlemyre was our guest speaker on March 10th. Mary Ann is a 31-year veteran teacher, who is internationally known, having won the Presidential Innovative Environmental Educators Award in 2017 from the EPA. She has led her school’s efforts to become the first school in the world, with the National Wildlife Federation’s Green Schools Program, to be the first Elementary School to earn a 4th and permanent green flag. Her efforts also led her school to receive recognition, earning the Green Schools award by the EPA in 2017. She is passionate about the environment and passing the torch of stewardship on to future generations.

Mary Ann drew from her wealth of experience to share on the topic of Experiential Learning: Building a Sense of Place. View a portion of her presentation here.

Mary Ann Settlemyre, STEAM/Outdoor Education Specialist, Centreville Elementary School

NoVA Outdoor Educators Workshop: Session 3 with Alexis Thorbecke

Alexis Thorbecke supports Earth Force teachers and student civic action projects throughout the Chesapeake Bay region. She draws on 8 years of experience as an environmental educator, interpretive coach, and behavior change research associate to further Earth Force’s mission. Alexis’ natural charisma shows in her consistently high marks for her professional development sessions.

On March 24th, Alexis shared on the topic of Integrated Learning: Making Connections and Broadening Perspectives.

Alexis Thorbecke, Chesapeake Bay Program Manager at Earth Force

NoVA Outdoor Educators Workshop: Session 4 with John Gallagher (AKA “Ranger Rick”)

John Gallagher is the art director of the NWF’s “Ranger Rick” magazine, cofounder of “Kids Love Comics” (an organization that uses graphic novels to promote literacy), and leads workshops teaching kids how to create their own comics. John lives in Virginia with his wife and their three kids. Visit him at MaxMeow.Com, on twitter @johnBGallagher, on facebook @MaxMeowCatCrusader and on instagram @johngallagher_cartoonist.

On April 7th, John shared on the topic of Sustainability/Stewardship: Living and Acting in the World. View a recording of his presentation here.

John Gallagher, Art Director, Ranger Rick Magazine, National Wildlife Federation

Facebook Group: NoVA Outdoor Educators

Get in conversation with other educators and parent volunteers through this virtual community.

NoVA Outdoor Educators Meet-Ups

NoVA Outside offers social opportunities for educators to connect as well as Meet-Ups at schools, gathering places and field trip locations. Come to meet other parents and educators, to tour schools, to share experiences and get new ideas and inspiration!

Check the NoVA Outside Facebook events page for the latest information on this and other Outdoor Educators Meet-Ups

Thanks to those that came to our December 2, 2020 meetup. Our schedule for 2021 meetups is coming soon.

Past meet-ups

February 2019: Educator Social

Educators, parents and agency representatives from around Northern Virginia and DC met for an evening of connection and sharing. Check out the recap.

June 2018: Woodley Hills Elementary, Alexandria

We learned about the journey Woodley Hills took to establish a sustainable community garden and an outdoor fully functional learning space.

May 2018: Terraset Elementary in Reston

Terraset’s Jann Canestra shared some of the school’s many outdoor learning and gardening projects. These projects include hydroponic gardening, vegetable gardening to supplement the school’s salad bar, end of the year farm market/garage sale where the students make their own products to sell, raising chicks and ducklings, and a weekly ‘green hour’ for students in all grades.

April 2018: Tuckahoe Elementary School,Arlington

This meetup included a tour of the Tuckahoe Discovery Schoolyard that was created 20 years and included time for educators and parents to share best practices, challenges and successes. Images here.

February 2018: Spotlight on 4-H Outdoor Explorers program at Arlington’s Randolph Elementary . 
This SAGE Meetup featured the 4-H Outdoor Explorers program. Run through Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Arlington office, this afterschool series pairs volunteer teams with youth to explore the great outdoors. Volunteers lead exciting, hands-on activities with the club each week for six weeks. Students go on scavenger hunts, search for birds, play in the dirt, and have a great time in nature. 

January 11: SAGE Happy Hour! at Oh George. This was a time for everyone who works with school age children (K-12) to connect with fellow educators, get ideas for your program, and find out what’s planned for SAGE this spring.

December 2017 – River Farm Cooperative, 6744 S Kings Hwy, Alexandria, VA 22306
Based in Alexandria, Virginia, the River Farm Cooperative offers a dynamic elementary education program for children in grades K – 6. This nature-based, cooperative program is based on the premise that both parents and children are integral parts of a school community of lifelong learners.

Come learn how River Farm Cooperative has incorporated nature journaling, natural materials printing, gardening, construction of a bug hotel, and a field trip to Huntley Meadows into its curriculum.  River Farm parents and teachers will also share their commitment to teaching their students about social justice and their plans to link this to environmentalism in the future.

November 2017 – The Howard Gardner School, Alexandria
This meetup was an opportunity to see how the school yard has been transformed into an outdoor classroom, native meadow, pond, and walking paths.  All of these elements have been designed, maintained and mostly implemented by students. 

View photos of this Meetup here

October 2017 – George C. Marshall High School, Falls Church
This meetup was an opportunity to learn about student lead initiatives from Marshall’s Earth Force, who were pivotal in encouraging the building’s innovative design and continue to lead the way on environmental efforts for the school.

September 2017 – Happy Hour at Mad Fox Brewing, Falls Church

This was a social for K-12 educators in Northern Virginia who are interested in bringing “green” into their classrooms, schools and curricula.

To learn more, to volunteer or to inquire about hosting a Meet-Up, email