Four Winds Nature Institute is a non-profit organization advancing the understanding, appreciation, and protection of the environment through community-based natural science education and research.


We believe people long for a healthy connection to the environment and to each other. Our programs bring people of all ages together to explore the natural world in their community. These local, hands-on experiences establish connections that will nurture and fuel us all as we work together to address the increasingly complex environmental issues ahead of us.

Four Winds staff members are educators and scientists dedicated to helping children and adults gain the knowledge and science skills needed to understand the world around them and the creative problem-solving and citizenship skills needed to protect it.

School year 2022-23

The Nature Program offers monthly natural science workshops in communities in Vermont and neighboring states for adult volunteers eager to share nearby nature with school children. Each workshop includes natural science information, a variety of hands-on learning activities, plus plenty of joy and wonder. With over 40 lessons, we divide our program into five year-long themes, each focusing on a different key science standard.

Four Winds programs are designed to get kids and adults outdoors connecting and learning about nature. This year, we will continue to offer Nature Program All Out – modified for all-outdoors instruction. In this model, Four Winds educators meet volunteers outdoors for training workshops and teams of two or more volunteers meet classrooms of children outside each month to look, discover, and learn.

With Covid protocols changing in schools, we anticipate that volunteers will be welcomed indoors. To accommodate this change, we will also offer our traditional model of the Nature Program with lessons taught in the classroom as well as outdoors on the school grounds.

Each school has two Volunteer Coordinators who act as the liaison between the education staff at Four Winds and the volunteers, teachers, school administrators, and the community at large. Enrollment in the Nature Program or Nature Program All Out includes training workshops for volunteers, teaching materials, and password access to online resources, including Nearby Nature from Home for in-class or at-home extensions of volunteer-led lessons.

Option 1: The Nature Program All Out – We will be leading an all outdoors version of our Nature Program. This includes: an initial session to introduce volunteers to strategies for outdoor exploration within CDC guidance, our modified volunteer training workshops – now presented all outside, teaching materials, and password access to online resources including Nearby Nature from Home for at-home extensions of in-person lessons. Click here for more information about The Nature Program All Out.

Option 2: Nearby Nature from Home for remote learning – Four Winds has created a collection of family-friendly, standards-based natural science modules that K-6 teachers can share as a science choice in remote learning plans. These modules are flexible in how they can be assigned, they can keep community connections with volunteers alive (virtually), and they encourage families to explore nature together right in their own neighborhood. Click here for more information about Nearby Nature for remote learning.


Option 3: Nearby Nature from Home for families — Are you looking for high quality, place-based teaching resources for your children that incorporate science, reading, writing, art AND that are fun to do together?! Each of the Nearby Nature from Home modules engages children in exploring nature nearby – with opportunities for making observations, asking questions, recording what they notice and wonder, and sharing ideas. For more information about Nearby Nature for Families, click here.

In addition, Four Winds continues to facilitate early childhood nature-based play and learning Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) and to offer teacher professional development focusing on place-based natural science education and outdoor teaching.


Ideas for Families Exploring Nearby Nature – Winter

Nearby Nature our online publication holds a treasure trove of natural science lessons and explorations designed to get children and adults outside learning together in every season.

Time in Nature Ideas for Families with Preschool Children

Nature Journal Prompts — ideas for exploring nearby nature


Sign up for our seasonal newsletter and to hear about new stories on our blog!