Saturday, May 14, 2022 from
9:00 AM to 4:00 PM EDT

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845 West Street,
Amherst, MA 01002

Driving Directions


Peg Smeltz
Antioch University New England
603-762-0012 cell

Morning Workshops

Poetry Teatime Under the Trees
Lise McGuinness, Teacher/Owner,
Free to Be a Child, Florence, MA

Assessing Preschool/Pre-K Social Emotional Skills in the Woods
Jane Piselli, Early Childhood Eduator and Doctoral Candidate, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA

The Benefits of Risk: From Trees and Ticks to Knives and Poison Ivy
Anne Stires, Educational Consultant, Affiliate Faculty, Antioch University New England, Founder, Juniper Hill School for Place-based Education, Alna, ME

Scavenger Hunts, Gathering Expeditions, Nature Walks: Engaging Ways to Take Learning Outdoors for PreK–Grade 3 Students
Alissa Alteri Shea, First Grade Teacher, Leverett Elementary School, Leverett, MA

Being Animals
Katie Koerten, Educator, Hitchcock Center for the Environment, Amherst, MA

The Earth Moves Under My Feet: Salamander Curriculum for the Early Grades
Renee Bachman, Third Grade Teacher, Leeds Elementary School, Northampton, MA

Conference Brochure
Workshop Descriptions

Please read through the workshop descriptions to determine how you would like to spend your day. You will select your workshops during the registration check-in time on the morning of the conference.


Afternoon Workshops

Daycare as a Radical Movement
Bessie Johnson, Director, Sow Well Tots Early Childhood Program, Bernardston, MA

Where Does Water Go? An Exploration of Water through Story-driven Scientific Inquiry
Carol Berner, Director of the Water Inquiry Project, Smith College, and Coordinator of the River of Words Project in Connecticut River Valley Schools, Northampton, MA and
Eva Jaffe, First Grade Teacher, Springfield Public Schools, Springfield, MA

Art in the Forest: Nature as Inspiration and Medium
Aemelia Thompson, Educator, Hitchcock Center for the Environment, Amherst, MA

Transforming the Edge of the Woods: Accessibility in a Forest Classroom
Kiah Tinkham and Val Driscoll, Preschool Primes Teachers, The Center School, Greenfield, MA

Joy and Wonder through Nature Immersion
Ayana Verdi, Verdi EcoSchool, Melbourne, FL

Give Your Curriculum Wings!
Birds Curriculum for Early Elementary Students
Renee Bachman, Third Grade Teacher, Leeds Elementary Scool, Northampton, MA

Welcome back to what we hope will be the new normal of convening early childhood and early elementary teachers to learn about and engage in nature-based education.  We’re planning conferences that can accommodate 100-125 folks and we’re hoping to be maskless. Time will tell.  We’re continuing to expand our focus, so we now are planning workshops to address teachers of pre-K through 4th grade students in our two New England events.  We’re also planning on workshops that continue to address what we’ve learned about outdoor learning during the pandemic. 

Antioch University New England will again host three In Bloom conferences this spring in the eastern United States. 

We’ll be offering out first In Bloom in the mid-Atlantic states at In Bloom in Delaware on the campus of the University of Delaware and in conjunction with the University of Delaware Lab School and the Human Development and Family Sciences Department. The Delaware conference will be on Saturday,  April 2, 2022 and will focus on early childhood education for toddlers through children age six. Come south for an early spring experience. 

Next is In Bloom in Western Massachusetts on Saturday, May 14, 2022 hosted at the beautiful Hitchcock Center for the Environment in Amherst, Massachusetts. We’ll focus on pre-K through grade 4 students and teachers here. 

Our last event will be In Bloom in Maine in mid-coast Maine on Saturday, June 11, 2022 at the Blueberry Cove 4-H Camp and Learning Center in Tenant’s Harbor-a beautiful new location for us. Right on the water, so bring your bathing suit.

at the Hitchcock Center for the Environment
Amherst, Massachusetts

Morning Keynote

Cultivating Connection: Using the Community-as-Campus to Build Immersive Learning Experiences for Young Children

Ayana Verdi, Founder and Director of Verdi EcoSchoo l, Melbourne, FL

The Verdi EcoSchool is the first Urban Farm School in the southeastern United States and the only school of its kind in the state of Florida. Serving children from 3–15 years of age, EcoSchool students learn to view themselves as the single most powerful resource within their community. As part of the educational program, the classroom extends to unique settings: exploring the waters of the local Indian River Lagoon, learning about restorative agriculture on a community garden and creating replicas of ancient First Nations tools at the Foosaner Art Museum and Education

Center. Ayana, founder and director of the school, will lead you on an exciting exploration of a day in the life of a student at this place- and project-based community school.


In 2016, Ayana Verdi established Verdi EcoSchool to provide hands-on educatonal experiences for children in the historic Eau Gallie Arts District in Melbourne, Florida. Ayana was awarded the prestigious Drexel Fund Fellowship in 2019 and has extended the successful K-8 program by founding a new high school model which incorporates hands-on, immersive learning through practical, real-world internships. Inspired by the nature-based school her son attended in New Zealand, Ayana is committed to cultivating community-based and environmentally aware educational options for children.

Afternoon Keynote

Re-Imagining Education and Co-Creating Change: How a professional learning community (PLC) for Maine administrators is implementing nature-based change in PreK–8 Schools

Anne Stires, Affiliate Faculty, Antioch University New England, Keene, NH, Educational Consultant and Founder, Juniper Hill School for Place-based Education, Alna, ME


Why outdoor, nature-connected learning? Why now? What are the concerns? How do we implement outdoor learning in small steps? How do we make sure it continues long after the global pandemic? How do we get teachers the professional development and support they need? With the pandemic, many Maine schools have embraced a shift toward outdoor learning––but now, over two years later––administrators, teachers, school communities, and students need continued support.

Anne Stires, is the founder of Juniper Hill School for Place-based Education in Alna, Maine. She is now an independent educational consultant working with schools and programs throughout Maine and beyond to support equitable outdoor learning and nature connecton initiatives. She is a regularly featured speaker at many nature-based education conferences and is the facilitator of Maine's public school Nature-based Administrators' Professional Learning Community. Anne teaches graduate level courses for Antioch University as affiliate faculty and serves as an advisor to the Inside-Outside: Nature-based Educators' Network. She is the author of a chapter in Nature Preschools and Forest Kindergartens and was a member of the writing team for the Natural Start Professional Practices Guidebook.

Registration Information

Group /School Registration Check Payment Link Use this link to register a group of 3 or more professionals from the same school or organization. The group rate is $100 per person. This is a Purchase Order, Check or Pay-at-the-Door only option.

Use this link to register at the Working Professional, AUNE Alumni or Current Student Categories. This is a credit/debit card only option.

Do You Have a Voucher from a 2020 In Bloom Registration? 
If you received a voucher (instead of a refund) from your 2020 In Bloom paid conference registration, contact Peg Smeltz for instructions before registering.

603-762-0012 cell