Program Overview

How do children learn best?

Is it by watching someone explain something, reading it in a book, or by exploring it in a hands-on way themselves?  As educators and parents of course we all know that they learn more, way more by actively being engaged with activities and materials of their own choosing. 

As a teacher or parent will you learn more about working with children in nature by sitting in a dimly lit room with no windows in some hotel… or learn outside in a forest in spectacular Yosemite, while being inspired by superb workshop leaders from around the world? 

The simple truth is that we as adults learn best the same way, experientially.  We teach using a combination of the senses. And that simple principle is what the Children Learning with Nature Institute is founded on. 

We know that you are going to learn more and remember more with our hands-on approach to learning. Now to be accurate the Children Learning with Nature Institute isn’t all outdoors, but approximately 70% of our workshops are.

What is the Children Learning with Nature Institute All About?

The Children Learning with Nature Institute is an amazing teacher and parent training program that is based on the simple premise that just as children learn best by doing, rather than being shown or told abstractly what to do, so to adults do as well. The CLN Institute is quite different because more than half of the program is held outdoors, and much of the program is in small group experiential workshops. Our focus is on providing skills, insights and inspiration to adults working with children ages 0-8 years old, but the principles we use apply to all children.

Children Learning with Nature Training Institute is three full days focusing on experiential learning for ECE & Special Education teachers, parents; and health professionals who work with young children. 

The skills you will learn are immediately applicable to your work with young children and because once you have had an opportunity to experience these activities for yourself, you’ll have more confidence and understanding in your work with children. We provide you with the tools for bringing a rich nature experience into children’s lives. These experiences are relevant whether your center, school or home is out the forest, the suburbs or in the heart of the city. Our workshop leaders are drawn from across North America and the world. These are experts with the heart of a teacher and the skills to match.

So who is the Children Learning with Nature Institute designed for?

The CLN Institute is designed for early childhood and special education teachers, parents and anyone who works with children in from birth to age eight.

Our workshops are designed to be of great benefit whether it is something new and maybe even a bit intimidating, or you already spend your days out in the forest or a park working with children.

The simple truth is that most of us work with children in settings that are very urban or suburban in nature. Many of us have small outdoor spaces, sometimes really small spaces. So how do you make the most of that? Our sessions equip you with the experiences and the tools you take with you and immediately be able to apply them working with children.


Check in and on-site Registration begins on Saturday afternoon from 5:00pm- 6:30pm and then again Sunday morning from 8:00am- 9:15am.

The CLN Institute starts Sunday morning, October 6th at 9:30am and ends on Tuesday, October 8th at 4:00pm. Each day is quite full and our program includes evening events such as our Welcome Reception on Sunday followed by making s’mores and storytelling around a campfire. Then on Monday evening we will have our Sharing Session which is always a favorite of everyone, where six or seven attendees care invited to present about their programs and learning environments. This is a  wonderful opportunity to learn from your peers.  If you are interested in presenting at our Sharing Session please contact Paul Roberts at or 707-373-1400.

During each session there are multiple workshops or presentations to choose from.  You decide in which sessions to attend to benefit your needs and interests.

Planned Workshops & Presentation Topics

Special Education & Inclusion Strand

The Childplay Institute reserves the right to modify and change workshops

What’s Included in Your Registration

More Details


Please arrive dressed to learn and explore in clothes you don’t mind playing in and that might mean getting a wee bit dirty or wet depending on the sessions you choose.  There is a great indoor pool and two whirlpools to enjoy.  The outdoor pool will already be closed for the season.

Location & Weather

Tenaya Lodge is in a small town called Fish Camp (Population 59), just two miles outside the boundaries of Yosemite National Park on Hwy 41. The Lodge is at an elevation of 5,288 feet above sea level, so you are up in the Sierra.

The average temperature at Tenaya Lodge in early October averages a high of 68 degrees and drops down to about 40 degrees at night.  It can be much warmer though during the day and cooler at night though.  Rain is possible, but still unlikely in October.

When we are outdoors most of the workshops will be in the forest which has ample sun and shade for each workshop. We strongly recommend that you layer your clothing to be able to be most comfortable. 

The Forest is Right Outside

One of the great benefits of holding our CLN Institute at Tenaya Lodge is that the forest for our outdoor workshops is just 150 feet from our meeting rooms in the Lodge.  There is about a 25-foot difference in elevation so there are several sets of stairs getting from the Lodge down into the forest.  If you have some mobility challenges please let us know prior to the event.  The Lodge does have golf carts for visitors who need some assistance getting around.  Just let us know and we will take care of you.

Tenaya Lodge

The lodge itself has everything you should need.  The guest rooms are spacious and comfortable.  The Lobby is grand with a high timbered ceilings and an imposing fireplace at one end.

Our meeting spaces are just off of the lobby. And yes the meeting rooms actually have windows so you can see the forest just outside.

For food on Sunday we will have boxed lunches for everyone. On Monday and Tuesday there will be sit down buffet lunches leading into Keynote addresses those days. We will also offer a lovely evening reception on Sunday evening. Weather permitting, we will hold this in the Pavilion which is a covered outdoor space.

There are also two restaurants on site and a small shop serving bagels, muffins, coffee; sandwiches, drinks and treats.

The Lodge also has a full spa called Ascent (Sorry treatments not included in your registration price…this year at least!) but you do have complimentary access to the spa’s fitness room; steam rooms and dry saunas.

There is a very large indoor swimming pool and two whirlpools at the Lodge so bring your swimsuit.  Adjacent to that is a large game room.

Outside there are many spots to sit on the grass, there are multiple firepits spread across the property, and decks overlooking the forests. With 70+ acres it’s easy to take a different walk in the woods each day.

Tenaya is very family friendly and there are multiple daily activities at the lodge.

Beyond Tenaya

If you can plan to come early or stay after the institute to enjoy Yosemite and the Sierra. The newly restored Mariposa Grove of Big Trees is just three miles away, and Wawona with its Pioneer Village is about eight miles away.  Yosemite Valley is about an hour away. Hike up to Vernal & Nevada Falls in the Valley. Glacier Point also an hour away offers absolutely spectacular views of Yosemite Valley & Half Dome. 

About The Childplay Institute

The mission of The Childplay Institute is to improve the education and lives of children around the world working with children and training teachers, parents and others to help children learn and grow.

Contact Us

(707) 373-1400


985 Walnut Avenue
Vallejo, California 94592

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