NLI Media

Making a Terrarium

Terrariums are a fun way to bring nature indoors. Using easily found and inexpensive materials, you can create a small world of wonder for children and adults alike.

Creating a Fairy Garden

Fairy gardens are homes for elves, fairies, and other beings of children’s imagination. They provide enchanted places that stimulate creative and dramatic play in make believe settings.

NLI Community-Based Design Process

The NLI design team engages teachers, caregivers, and stakeholders in a community-centered design process that is grounded in innovative, accessible, and low-cost strategies to create high-quality play and learning settings.

Designer Overview by Professor Robin Moore

Robin C. Moore, Dipl.Arch, MCP, Hon.ASLA, Hon.IPA is a Professor of Landscape Architecture and Director of the Natural Learning Initiative, College of Design, NC State University.

Looping Primary Pathway

Primary pathways promote physical activity by facilitating running, chase games, and wheeled toy use. They provide circulation throughout the outdoor learning environment and connect play settings for children and teachers alike.

Play and Learning Setting

A diversity of play and learning settings is key to high-quality outdoor learning environments. A variety of settings encourages children to be more physically active, play cooperatively, and engage in outdoor learning.

Outdoor Classrooms

Outdoor classrooms facilitate unique learning experiences that connect children to the natural world. Indoor-outdoor curriculum connections allow children to reflect on their outdoor experiences and share their observations.

Farm to Child Care

Farm to Child Care brings North Carolina grown fruits and vegetables into child care facilities for meals and snacks. Centers that grow their own fresh foods strengthen experiential learning opportunities for children in the program.

Garden Planning and Caring

Gardening allows children to experience every stage of growth from planting to harvest. Raised beds, container gardens, and edible shrubs are critical components for designing high-quality edible landscapes for children.

Childcare Network #61, Wanda Davis, Director

“Childcare Network #61” is one of 16 Wake County, NC centers implementing the Preventing Obesity by Design (POD) strategy developed by the Natural Learning Initiative, College of Design, North Carolina State University. POD-Wake Co. was supported by the John Rex Endowment.

A Safe Place Enrichment Center, Kim Shaw, Owner

“A Safe Place” is one of 16 Wake County, NC centers implementing the Preventing Obesity by Design (POD) strategy developed by the Natural Learning Initiative, College of Design, North Carolina State University. POD-Wake Co. was supported by the John Rex Endowment.

Garden Harvesting, Preparing, Snacking

Children who grow their own fruits and vegetables are more likely to try and enjoy new foods. Harvesting, snacking on, and preparing fresh foods help children build healthy eating habits that can last a lifetime.

Incremental Development

The creation of a high-quality outdoor learning environment doesn’t happen overnight. Projects develop in phases as funding, volunteers, and resources become available. A masterplan guides the phasing of projects over many years.

Elements of Urban Form

There are 5 urban form elements that influence design practice and policy. They are pathways, nodes, landmarks, districts, and edges.

Affordance and Behavior Setting

Affordance is a perceptional relationship between functional properties of environments and skills of individual users.


Playgrounds to Outdoor Learning Environments

Childcare outdoor learning environment to support young children’s physical activity, healthy eating, and outdoor learning.

Let’s Go Outdoors! Webinar

The Natural Learning Initiative presented the webinar in partnership with Be Active Kids and NCDHHS Division of Child Development and Early Education. The goal was to explore how to help childcare providers feel secure taking children outdoors during the pandemic.

External Media


Jon Fritz, landscape designer, presents the outdoor learning environment design for A Child’s Haven with knowledge gained through the NLI certificate course.

Tanya Camunas, Director, A Child’s Haven
Shale Remien, Reporter, Fox Carolina News

The Children & Nature Movement

The Children & Nature Network is championing a world-wide movement to reconnect children, families, and communities to the natural world: for their health and for the health of our planet. Produced by Gear 6 Productions for The Children & Nature Network.

OMO Dirt is Good

OMO is dedicated to showing you that Dirt is Good – especially when it’s the result of your kids going out into the world to have fun, explore, learn and experience the very best the world around us has to offer.

Free the Kids – Dirt is Good

Who spends more time outside, a child… or a maximum-security prisoner? Watch this film to find out. This video looks inside the minds of prison inmates to find out exactly how much their outdoor time means to them.

This Is Me : Article 31 and a Child’s Right to Play

On February 1st 2013, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child expanded the world’s understanding of the child’s right to play by adopting a General Comment on Article 31 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. This may sound dry, but this video doesn’t!

PEJ — Building Community Around Raleigh’s Walnut Creek Wetlands

Walnut Creek, 2000, is a grassroots project designed to extend to Southeast Raleigh – a predominately African American community – the same economic, educational, and beautification benefits realized by the rest of the City of Raleigh through wetland restoration.

What nature teaches children | Nilda Cosco | TEDxRaleigh

In her talk, Cosco explains the importance of children being outdoors as it releases the power of experiential learning and etches lifelong memories of nature. Nilda Cosco, PhD, is Research Associate Professor, College of Design, and Director of Programs at the Natural Learning Initiative, North Carolina State University.


The Child In Nature, 2006, features Robin Moore discussing NLI’s approach to the Montessori philosophy of outdoor design and the spatial transition between indoors and outdoors. Also featured are Montessori educator, Nimal Vaz, and theologian and philosopher, the late Thomas Berry. The DVD Full version is available for purchase.

Wolfpack Wellness Research Web Series: “Preventing Obesity by Design”

During this episode, Dr. Suzie Goodell interviews Dr. Nilda Cosco, a research associate professor in the College of Design, discusses her research initiative “Preventing Obesity by Design; Natural Learning Initiative.”

Design Institute

Design Institute – 2018

Featured speakers include: Adrien Smith, Debbie Roos, John Connors, Max Cawley & Uli Hartmond, Nils Peterson, and Robin Moore.

Design Institute – 2017

Featured speakers include: Barry Van Derman, Carlos Ferreira Neto, Cathy Jordan, Marcia Brooks, Evie Houtz, and Robin Moore.

Design Institute – 2016

Featured speakers include: Anita Nelson Niehues, Cam Collyer, David Kahn, Glenn Murphy, Jennifer Zuckerman, Jim Phillips, Kevin Cherry, Lias Fluery, Michael Lindstrom, Nilda Cosco, and Robin Moore

Growing in Place

Growing in Place – 2018

Growing in Place – 2017

Growing in Place – 2012