Current Projects

MN Landscape Analysis Project


Building widespread environmental stewardship through equitable access to the outdoors and environmental programming takes time, expertise, and coordination.  In 2023, the Minnesota Association for Environmental Education (MAEE) and the Minnesota Children and Nature Connection (MnCNC) are partnering together in coordination with the Gen:Thrive Program at EcoRise to dedicate that time, expertise, and coordination to conducting a landscape analysis of environmental education efforts in Minnesota.

Funded by EcoRise and Jeffers Foundation, the project will include a comprehensive study of the environmental education already happening on the ground, enabling the identification of gaps and barriers to access that prevent successful implementation statewide. The final report will also provide recommendations and next steps for increasing access to outdoor programs and environmental literacy efforts based on an inventory of model programs and initiatives happening nationwide. 

The landscape analysis project will begin with a comprehensive state-wide survey of existing opportunities and a compilation of spatial data that is relevant to identifying gaps and barriers.  The project will result in three tools:  a field trends dashboard, a gaps, barriers, and opportunities map, and findings and recommendations.

The Nature-Based Early Childhood Program Assessment and Guidebook was developed to provide families, programs, and educators with a tool to assist them in evaluating how a program integrates nature into its philosophy and policies, family engagement and community connections, and the outdoor and indoor classroom environments and practices. 

The assessment tool provides an opportunity to assess where a program falls on a continuum of measurable benchmarks intended to gauge nature integration within the four areas of practice. Information gathered can be utilized for reflection and discussions about a program’s current practices and identifying areas of growth based on the individual program’s goals for nature-based learning. 

The guidebook also provides background information on each area and benchmark, along with examples from different early childhood programs to inspire and demonstrate the implementation of nature-based learning. This information can support programs and educators as they’re working to continue to improve their practices and intentionality on how nature is integrated into areas of their program.

 The Assessment & Guidebook is a project of Minnesota Children and Nature Connection (MnCNC) with support from the Jeffers Foundation and Minnesota Association for Environmental Education (MAEE). 

Our goal is to get this resource into the hands of as many program leaders, educators, and caregivers as possible at no cost to them.