Nature Education 

"Nature Education" online course

  • Hundreds of participants from over 50 countries have taken this popular course

  • This course offers 20 learning hours

This course may be offered again in the future.



  • Dates: April 9 – May 14, 2019 (5 weeks)

  • Time: The course is asynchronous (you can do it at your own pace), and includes optional weekly webinars.

  • Registration link

  • Course developers and instructors: Alex Kudryavtsev and Marianne Krasny, Cornell University Civic Ecology Lab

  • Course co-instructors: Yue Li and Braven Yu, Cornell University Civic Ecology Lab

  • Website


  • Cost: $60 per participant. Our courses depend on your payments. Other options are available for participants who cannot pay.


Nature experiences can be educational, joyful, and comforting, especially in today’s busy and urbanizing world. Nature education is a subfield of environmental education, whose goal is to bring people closer to nature and thus contribute to human well-being, including physical and mental health. This course will introduce you to diverse nature education practices, including programs run by urban and wilderness nature centers, unstructured play time for children, adventure and outdoor education programs, educational experiences in national parks, forest schools, as well as citizen science and environmental stewardship that incorporate nature-based experiences that benefit individuals. Topics include personal and community benefits of nature education, using and improving cultural ecosystem services, traditional approaches to nature experiences,and  challenges and critique of nature education. Based on research and practice examples, this course is designed to help educators, volunteers, community leaders, parents and anyone else to gain professional credentials in nature education, and to incorporate nature in their educational programs and everyday life.


Current and aspiring environmental educators, teachers, nonformal educators, volunteers, nature enthusiasts, university students – and anyone interested to use nature education in their work, life, research, and training other educators. No background in nature education or environmental education is required. Available to participants in any countries. All course materials are in English; video lectures contain subtitles in English and Chinese.

Learning objectives

Through this course, you will:

  1. Apply research explaining how nature education contributes to human well-being, makes communities healthier, and encourages people to be better nature stewards.

  2. Review and critique different types of nature education programs, explore their outcomes, and adapt their educational ideas for your own practices.

  3. Exchange practical ideas for nature education with other course participants and instructors.

  4. Create a plan for incorporating nature education activities in your organization, educational program, community, or family.


The course uses the EdX Edge learning management system, which contains course materials including video lectures, readings, and discussion boards. We also use optional Facebook and WeChat groups for informal exchange of ideas. In addition, we will conduct optional weekly webinars with guest speakers and office hours via Zoom.

Teaching philosophy

  1. Research-Based. Course is based on ideas from research publications,

  2. Critical Thinking. We promote critical analysis and discussion of any information in this course.

  3. Social Learning. Effective learning is social, thus course participants will have opportunities for ideas exchange and networking with peers and instructors.

  4. Practice Change and Innovation. We encourage higher-level thinking among course participants to help them improve their real-world practices, and to develop new ideas and collaborations.


This is a non-credit course. Participants who successfully complete the course requirements are awarded a Cornell University certificate (PDF). Requirements include: (1) each week, write reflections on discussion boards, (2) each week, post one comment for another course participant on discussion board, (3) submit the final one-page project (your plan for nature education activities) by the last day of the course, (4) write reflections for one webinar. You can print this checklist to remember all requirements.

Course Contents

  • Week 1 — Nature education framework. Background and definition. Nature education principles. Nature education outcomes. Individual and social benefits.

  • Week 2 — Nature education and physical health. Mental health. Social benefits.

  • Week 3 — Nature education programs. Nature education and children. Interpretation. Inclusive nature education.

  • Week 4 — Learning in different contexts. Nature education in wilderness vs in cities. Formal vs nonformal nature education. STEM learning.

  • Week 5 — Final project: create a nature education plan for your organization, school, family, or yourself.

Webinar Schedule

Most webinars are on Wednesdays (except Tuesday 4/30), 1-hour long. We use Eastern Time (time in New York).

  • 4/10, 8:00-9:00am — Course introduction — Alex Kudryavtsev, Extension Associate, Cornell University.

  • 4/17, 8:00-9:00am — Introduction to interpretation — Thomas Mackey and Xue Dong, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry

  • 4/17, 9:00-10:00am — Benefits, barriers, and opportunities for nature in schools — Amie Patchen, Post-doc, Public Health Program, Cornell University.

  • 4/24, 8:00-9:00am — Creating the conditions for people to care about the environment: Connecting families to nature — Chiara D’Amore, President, The Community Ecology Institute.

  • 4/24, 9:00-10:00am — Nature education: Examples in China — Huang Yu, Associate Professor, Institute of International and Comparative Education, Beijing Normal University.

  • Tuesday 4/30, 8:00-9:00am — Learning through a Forest School approach — Caylin Gans and Landere Naisbitt, graduate students at Antioch University New England, and leaders at theTracks Forest School & Outdoor Education.

  • 5/1, 8:00-9:00am — Community Engagement in Nature Education — Kris Scopinich and Jen Klein, Mass Audubon, Massachusetts, USA.

  • 5/1, 9:00-10:00am — Nature education in different contexts, including STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math fields) — Kelly L. Hoke, Center for Research on Lifelong STEM Learning, Oregon State University.

  • 5/8, 8:00-9:00am — Wetlands-based nature education in China — Baohua Yan, Shenzhen Mangrove Wetlands Conservation Foundation

  • 5/8, 9:00-10:00am — Reconnecting learners with nature: Strategy and evaluation tools — Yu-Chi Tseng, Assistant Professor, National Taichung University of Education.

  • 5/14, 8:00-9:00am — STEAM education — Xin Yu, Shan He, Jingjie Zhou, The Nature Conservancy China — This webinar is in Chinese

  • 5/14, 9:00-10:00am — Is technology against nature education? — Wenhui Qiu, Paradise Foundation — This webinar is in Chinese



This course is sponsored by the Alibaba Foundation.