Professional development and training includes theory, principles, and techniques that guide the design of play and learning environments with an emphasis on the design and management of natural environments to support healthy child development. The roles of play professionals, educators, and cultural animators are particularly emphasized in landscape design.
Contexts include informal environments such as community parks and play areas; nonformal educational institutions such as museums, zoos, and botanical gardens; formal educational institutions such as child development centers and schools; urban neighborhoods and pedestrian and bicycle networks that provide young people access to experiences in the broader community.
Professional development and training programs are delivered in live conferences, symposia, and hands-on workshops, as well as webinars and distance learning certificate courses. Distance learning programs offered through NC State University disseminate NLI resources across the State of North Carolina and beyond.
- Landscape architects and designers
- Landscape contractors
- Park and recreation professionals
- Early childhood educators
- Formal and nonformal educators
- Special education professionals
- After-school program coordinators
NLI currently offers two non-academic credit distance learning certificate programs three times a year. Each 24-hour course is asynchronous and self-paced, and takes up to 12 weeks to complete for 2.4 CEUs of credit.
Early Childhood Outdoor Learning Environments is targeted towards early childhood professionals and others interested in improving early childhood outdoor play and learning environments. Learners will gain skills and knowledge required to plan, manage, promote, organize, and administer high quality outdoor play and learning environments. The course will also introduce the participatory design process used by the Natural Learning Initiative in childcare settings. Although the primary audience of this program is early childhood professionals, educators working in other settings may be interested as well as technical assistants, extension agents, landscape design professionals, cooperative extension agents, and volunteers working in childcare settings. The overall course objective is to help participants understand how landscape design can support active lifestyles, promote mental health and wellbeing, encourage healthy eating, and motivate learning in, about, and through nature. Students in this course are NOT expected to have prior experience drafting plans.
Designing Early Childhood Outdoor Environments is targeted towards landscape design professionals and academic institutions teaching design-related disciplines (landscape architecture, landscape design, landscape management, landscape contracting, horticultural science, garden design, etc.), as well as extension agent training programs. The course covers participatory design processes, technical design topics, and tools to improve outdoor play and learning environments for young children and adults accompanying them in the locations of daily life: childcare centers, schools, neighborhood parks, children’s gardens, museums, nature centers, zoos, botanical gardens, and similar institutions. The overall course objective is to help participants create designs that can support active lifestyles, promote mental health and wellbeing, encourage healthy eating, and motivate learning in, about, and through nature. Students in this course are expected to have prior experience drafting plans.