10:30-11:45 Lincoln Auditorium

Using Nature to Build Executive Functions and Support Academic Success

Want the children you teach to be happier, healthier and smarter? The evidence is clear: students learn best through hands-on, experiential activities, not sitting quietly behind a desk.  Nature provides a rich landscape that supports learning in all domains for children and students of all ages – and teachers too!

This session will discuss a growing body of research that indicates spending time in nature can reduce overall stress and improve health and well-being as well as provide foundational experiences that lead to school success. Spending time in nature leads to higher test scores, less stress, increased creativity and lower behavior issues. Nature-based learning supports the ability to pay attention, plan, remember, use self-control and solve problems, often referred to as executive functions. Executive functions are key to success in school and in life. The relationship between time in nature and executive function will be examined with a specific focus on the cognitive and physical benefits of learning outdoors. So head outside and support your students in constructing knowledge and developing a love of learning!


Michelle Rupiper is passionate about connecting children and their teachers to nature. She is currently a professor of practice at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where she works to develop well-prepared, competent teachers who understand how children learn and are equipped to meet their needs. She directed the Ruth Staples Child Development Laboratory (CDL) on the UNL campus for many years. The CDL utilizes nature as a foundational aspect of their program and infuses nature curriculum not only in programming for children but in the teacher preparation courses taken by students at UNL. Dr. Rupiper is a certified Nature Explore trainer and has conducted numerous local, state and national presentations related to nature. She has co-authored three books: Developmentally Appropriate Curriculum in Action (2013), Guiding Children’s Social Development and Learning, 9th ed. (2017) and Developmentally Appropriate Curriculum: Best Practices in Early Childhood Education, 6th ed. (2015). She is active in the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), having served on the National Affiliate Council of NAEYC and as president of the Midwest AEYC and Nebraska AEYC. She is currently on the board of the National Coalition for Campus Children’s Centers. In addition to spending time outdoors, Michelle enjoys children’s literature, travel, and spending as much time as possible with her three-year-old grandson Tristan!


2017 Nature Based Education Home | Friday Sessions | Friday Evening Lecture | Saturday Sessions