Gina Jack, the New York State coordinator for Project WILD, is accustomed to leading teacher workshops with large numbers of participants, but every once in a while an exceptionally large group comes together for one of her workshops. She recently facilitated a Growing Up WILD training session, held on June 5, 2012, that saw 39 people. All of them were early childhood educators and directors from the childcare centers based at schools in the State University of New York (SUNY) system, attending their annual conference. Growing Up WILD is the Council for Environmental Education’s newest award-winning curriculum featuring 27 nature-based activities for building school readiness skills among children ages three through seven.
While early childhood educators are the backbone of the Growing Up WILD audience, in New York State Gina is seeing growing interest from professors who wish to incorporate Growing Up WILD into the teacher education curriculum at the SUNY colleges. This early introduction to Project WILD materials is something New York State’s Project WILD program strongly supports. Learning to use Project WILD’s full cadre of resources encourages pre-service teachers to incorporate them into their lessons early on, and to continue to do so throughout their teaching career. College professors at more than five schools—SUNY Fredonia, SUNY Cortland, and SUNY Oswego, to name a few—have been trained to serve as workshop facilitators for their students and now weave Project WILD into the coursework.