Conference Description

Join us at Earthroots Field School, as we travel together through the stages of play, deepening our understanding of why and how we humans play, when we’re young and when we’re not. Deepen your capacity for mentoring children and explore our role in supporting, nourishing, and protecting healthy play, a state of kinship, reciprocity, and learning.

With this year’s theme, Fields of Play, presenters Lia Grippo and Erin Dews will immerse participants in an experiential process that will reveal how humans learn best through play and by building relationships with one another and to the natural world. Since play is the brain’s favorite way to learn, joyful singing, games, and humor will be woven throughout our weekend in the spirit of the young child and young at heart.

This annual conference is a program of The Academy of Forest Kindergarten Teachers, co-sponsored by Earthroots Field School and with support from Mara W. Breech Foundation and VELA Fund.

Conference Details

Who: Early Childhood Educators, Teachers, Counselors, Parents and Mentors

When: March 2 & 3, 2024

Where: Big Oak Canyon (Silverado Canyon)

Price: $325-$250 (includes optional camping | see sliding scale details below)
Optional Add-On: $125 for meals * Note: The deadline to add-on meals has passed.

*There are limited tickets available at the two lowest sliding scale amounts. Register as soon as possible to have access to the lowest prices! UPDATE: Lowest amount ticket ($250) is already sold out!

Scholarship are available. Scroll to the bottom of the page for more details. Please note, the scholarship application deadline is February 1, 2024.

Registration is now open!

Click the button below to reserve your spot.

About the Conference

Reaching Nature Connection is an annual outdoor conference based on forest schools, wilderness awareness, and early childhood education. The conference is designed for beginners and experienced educators alike, as well as therapists, administrators, homeschool families, camp counselors, grandparents, and parents who have an interest in developmentally appropriate nature mentoring for children.

Reaching Nature Connection invites you to join in an exciting weekend of hands-on, research-based, and anecdotal learning. As always, the conference will be infused with songs, games, stories, and deeper nature connection.

Reaching Nature Connection provides an opportunity to set your watch aside and allow the leaders of the conference to hold time for you. The rhythm of each day is designed to move between active and contemplative learning, with a thematic thread running throughout. We will flow between lecture and hands-on components, weaving together our learning through a variety of approaches, with each new component building on the next. In order for participants to be fully engaged and get the most out of this conference, please make other arrangements for your child(ren), as this will be an adults only event.


Friday, March 1 (Optional early arrival)
4:00 – 6:00 pm Conference Check-in
Bring your own Dinner

Saturday, March 2
8:00 am Breakfast Provided*
8:00 – 8:30 am Conference check-in. Please arrive by 8:30 am.
9:00 am – 5:00 pm Conference begins promptly at 9:00 am (break for lunch)
12:00 pm Lunch Provided*
6:30 pm Dinner Provided*
7:30 pm An evening of connection and peer-mentorship (optional)

Sunday, March 3
8:00 am Breakfast Provided*
9:00 am – 4:00 pm Conference begins promptly at 9:00am (break for lunch)
12:00 pm Lunch Provided*


– *Optional add-on: $125 (includes 5 meals with gluten free and vegan options) | Please inform us if you have any food allergies
– Drinking water available on site
– Bring your own reusable mess kit (plate/bowl/utensils/mug)
– Dishwashing station provided for those providing their own meals

Lodging (Optional)
– Tent camping, bring your own camping supplies
– Portable toilets
– No showers available on site

Fire Safety
– No wood fires, candles or smoking on site

Registration & Cancellation


Click the button to fill out the registration form, once per participant. It takes less than 10 minutes. You will complete your enrollment with a credit card authorization. After your enrollment is processed, you will receive a confirmation email.

Cancellation & Refunds

If you cancel your registration, you may:
– Donate your tuition to support our continued work
– Request a refund per our policy:
– 50% refund for cancellations before February 17
– 25% refund for cancellations February 18-24
– No refunds for cancellations after February 25
If Earthroots cancels this program for any reason whatsoever, you would receive a 100% refund.

Contact us at [email protected] with registration questions.

What Previous Participants are Saying…

“Engaging, affirming, and inspiring! This conference was just what I needed to get reinvigorated about the importance of play and connecting to nature.” – Emily

“The Reaching Nature Connection Conference at Earthaven was a soul-nourishing experience. I have been a nature and play-based early childhood teacher for 20 years and I left this gathering full of inspiration, new questions about my work, a deeper understanding of what can inform it and experiences of thrill, joy, and community. I will be looking for more opportunities to engage in these trainings.” – Marie

Sliding Scale Details

Conference Tuition: $325-$250* (Pricing options: $250*, $275*, $300, & $325)
Tuition includes conference, materials, and (optional) camping

Meals (optional add-on) $125

*There are limited tickets available at the two lowest sliding scale amounts. Register as soon as possible to have access to the lowest prices! UPDATE: Lowest amount ticket ($250) is already sold out!

Why a Sliding Scale Tuition?
Because some people have more financial means than others, we have created a sliding scale fee system to accommodate a range of economic realities. The high-end of the scale reflects the value we believe the program holds, and the low-end offers a more accessible entry point.

By choosing a higher price point, you are helping make the program more accessible to others for whom this event may be cost-prohibitive. Please consider your needs and resources to determine what might be a stretch, but not a strain.


Through generous donations, Earthroots is able to provide a few partial scholarships for this event.


We have two different types of scholarships available.


Earthroots offers BIPOC scholarships to lift and strengthen the voices of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color in the field of nature connection.

Earthroots acknowledges that Black, Indigenous, and People of Color face varying types of discrimination and prejudice in our country, are three times more likely than white people to live in places that have no immediate access to nature, and are less represented in outdoor recreation activities. This scholarship aims to contribute to the well-being of the individuals it serves through removing barriers that limit access to nature connection.

We determine the number of scholarships awarded by donations provided and the number of applications received. If we receive more BIPOC Scholarship applicants than we have spaces available, we add recipient names to a lottery and draw at random. In the event we do not award you a BIPOC Scholarship and you would like to be considered for a Needs Based Scholarship, please also fill out a separate Needs Based Scholarship Application. 


Through generous donations, Earthroots provides scholarships to individuals who could otherwise not attend our programs. We determine the number of scholarships awarded, along with the award amount by donations provided and the number of applications received for each program. We consider applications based on the level of need.

Meet the Presenters

Lia Grippo

Born in Riga, Latvia, Lia spent many of her earliest years foraging and fishing the nearby woodlands with her family. Her early relationship with Nature has remained a constant thread in her life. At an early age, Lia was drawn towards working with young children and has been an early childhood educator since 1989. She has been fortunate to have had wise and skilled mentors in both early childhood education as well as nature connection. Lia has taught in a variety of settings including small and large preschools, a Waldorf kindergarten, a parent cooperative, and wilderness programs. In 1996, Lia founded her first preschool, Seedlings, and in 1998 she opened Wild Roots Forest School, a preschool and kindergarten roofed by the sky and carpeted with the living woodland floor. Lia is an accomplished storyteller, parent educator, naturalist, and herbalist and teaches classes and workshops in all of these areas of study. She is co-founder and presenter of the annual Reaching Nature Connection Conference and co-founder of Academy of Forest Kindergarten Teachers. Lia resides in Santa Barbara, CA with her musical husband, Jim, her two, nature-immersed, tree-climbing sons.

Erin Dews

Erin grew up freely exploring the pastures, creeks and high deserts of California’s Eastern Sierra mountains, this is where she truly learned about early childhood. Her passion to work with children and families in nature led her on a journey into teaching. While studying early childhood education and child development, Erin worked as a Public Project Coordinator at Kidspace Museum in Pasadena. In 2000, Erin traveled to Italy to study in the Reggio Emilia Municipal Schools. Upon her return to Santa Barbara, CA, Erin taught preschool and mentored student teachers at Santa Barbara City College Children’s Center, now The Orfalea Early Learning Center. She volunteered for Environment Camp and Wilderness Youth Project in its earliest years, taking children on the land in search of joy, laughter, adventure and a genuine connection to the natural world. Erin was the first teacher in Wild Roots Forest School’s inaugural kindergarten class in 2011. After 19 years in Santa Barbara, Erin returned to her homeland in the Sierra Mountains where she directs and teaches Wild Roots Eastern Sierra Programs based on her 20 years experience in early childhood education. Erin is co-founder of the annual Reaching Nature Connection Conference, Academy of Forest Kindergarten Teachers, and C5 Studios Community Arts Center. She is an artist and designer that seeks to fuel the creative spirit in herself and others everyday. She is mentored by her two children and still runs barefoot.