Nature-Based Early Learning Certificate

School of Education and Leadership

Nature is good for young learners

Children with consistent and meaningful outdoor experiences enjoy a variety of benefits: better academic outcomes, improved social-emotional health and executive function skills, increased empathy and pro-environmental behaviors, and enhanced creativity, resilience, and well-being.

With Hamline's Nature-Based Early Learning Certificate, you will:

  • Explore the many ways nature benefits children's development, health, well-being, and learning
  • Understand the legal, licensing, and health requirements for nature-based early learning programs
  • Learn to use nature as a context for teaching all disciplines and supporting children's health and development
  • Develop a leadership project such as curriculum materials, programs, or nature-playspaces

Grounded in the North American Association for Environmental Education's early childhood guidelines for excellence, Hamline's Nature-Based Early Learning Certificate is a good option for:

  • Educators who want to build connections between young children and nature
  • Licensed teachers who work with children from birth to grade three
  • Public health and special education professionals as well as anyone interested in children's health and well-being

Frequently asked questions about the Nature-Based Early Learning Certificate

Are courses online or on-campus? Hamline's Nature-Based Early Learning Certificate is offered fully online. Some individual classes may meet synchronously online (at a set scheduled time) on a weekday evening. You have the option of choosing elective coursework that is fully online, or those that offer in-person field experience opportunities. 
When can I start the certificate program? Fall, spring, and summer terms
How long will it take me to complete the certificate? One year
How many credits is this certificate? 10 credits
How many courses are in this certificate? 5 courses
How much does it cost? Your cost is calculated by the number of credits you take. For more information on the cost of tuition, see the School of Education and Leadership tuition page

Certificate curriculum

Required courses:

  • NSED 7102: A Sense of Wonder: Nature Education in Early Childhood (2 credits)
  • NSED 7110: Methods and Models of NBEL (2 credits)
  • NSED 7115: Nature-Based Learning: Policy and Practice (2 credits)
  • NSED 7195: Nature-Based Early Learning Leadership Project (2 credits)

Elective courses (choose one of the following):

  • NSED 7100: Intro to STEAM in Early Childhood (2 credits)
  • NSED 7101: Eco Art (2 credits)
  • NSED 7105: Early Childhood Literacy Outdoors (2 credits)
  • NSED 7220: Equity and Inclusion in Environmental Education (2 credits)

Career opportunities

The opportunities are enormous for educators who understand early learners and want to build connections between young children and nature. Jobs for people holding this credential are plentiful in museums, zoos, arboreta, nature centers, parks, nature-based preschools, and public schools. Examples of job titles include:

  • Animal-care coordinator
  • Camp counselor
  • Naturalist
  • Program director
  • STEM specialist
  • Teacher

Hamline alumni who have specialized skills in nature-based early learning have held positions such as:

  • Author
  • Nature-artist in residence
  • Nature-playscape designer
  • Preschool teacher
  • Program director
  • Puppeteer
  • Zoo director

The demand for professionals skilled in facilitating nature-based experiences for young learners continues to grow. In just five years, nature-based early learning programs have increased by over 200%, now topping more than 800 in the United States, with hundreds in other countries as well. Furthermore, according to a 2023 Natural Start report, educators working in these programs earn, on average, about 20% more than their counterparts working in classroom-based early learning programs that don't identify as nature-based.

Apply your certificate toward a master’s degree

Enrolling in a certificate program is a great way to experience what the master's programs at Hamline are like. With the Nature-Based Early Learning Certificate, you’ll earn credits that you can apply toward Hamline's  MA in Natural Science and Environmental Education. With instructor and the EdD program director's permission, your credits could also be applied to your Educational Specialist degree or Doctorate in Education (EdD) at Hamline.

Contact information