About this Program
Do you have an interest in nature and enjoy interacting with children and families? The Childhood Nature Studies program prepares you for working in a variety of family, childcare, early learning, school, and community settings, with a goal of supporting child development and more socially-just and ecologically-sustainable communities.
The focus of Childhood Nature Studies is supporting children, families, and communities through nature-rich experiences, settings, and services. Through cross-disciplinary coursework from environmental and outdoor education, psychology, health, social work, and education, you will be prepared for collaborating with professionals from across the spectrum of care, education, health, mental health, social service, and environmental sectors. You'll have the opportunity for:
- studying childhood development, the foundations of healthy development, and the potential for nature to support children’s learning, well-being, and unfolding capabilities
- learning to provide developmentally and culturally appropriate experiences that support children's learning and development and strengthen family and community relationships
- gaining experience in designing and using nature-rich, playful learning environments, such as nature playscapes, early childhood nature play programs, and nature preschools
- integrating theory and practice through immersion experiences, reflection, networking, and action research
- studying abroad in countries known for innovations in nature-based learning and development.
Note: Your major does not limit you to one career. By earning a bachelor's degree you are gaining a variety of skills that employers are seeking.
Through the program, students gain a wide knowledge base across interrelated disciplines, making this degree very marketable. There is a growing demand for education and social service professionals who specialize in working with young children. And with the rapidly growing national and international interest in connecting children and nature (as well as a documented shortage of quality early care for young children particularly in greater Minnesota) there is a strong demand for interdisciplinary and nature-based professional preparation. The following are a few examples of career opportunities related to this degree:
- Preschool Teacher or Director at non-teacher licensure settings, such as nature preschools, child care and early learning centers, private schools, etc. (*post-baccalaureate coursework available for those seeking early childhood teacher licensure)
- Child Life Specialist
- Early Childhood or Special Education Paraprofessional
- Parent or Family Educator
- Early Childhood Education Consultant
- Social Services (entry level positions)
- Family Child Care Provider
- Infant and Toddler Specialist
- Youth Development Specialist in community organizations and out-of-school programs
This program also prepares you for entry into UMD's Master of Environmental Education program or other graduate programs in early childhood education, youth and family studies, environmental education, psychology, and social work.
Admissions and Scholarships
There are no admission requirements for this program beyond the general University of Minnesota admission requirements.
Students in CEHSP are eligible to apply for more than 100 scholarships each academic year typically totaling $120,000 annually. For more information on scholarship opportunities, visit the CEHSP scholarship webpage.
Program faculty are actively engaged in research and practice, with opportunities for student involvement in their "Flourishing in Nature" research projects, as well as for professional networking within Minnesota Early Childhood Outdoors, the Natural Start Alliance (U.S.), the Child and Nature Alliance of Canada, and the Certified Forest School Practitioner Network. We work closely with our local nature preschools, including the Preschool in the Park program on campus, as well as with the Duluth Nature Play Collaborative and its growing number of participating sites in the region.