Adult Programs

Midwest Early Childhood Educators Symposium

Honoring the Earth and Each Other Through Fostering Diversity, Equity, Access, and Inclusion
Please note:
This Symposium is SOLD OUT but the Keynote Panel (only) Live Stream and Recording is still open for registration.

Content Detail

Please note:

This Symposium is SOLD OUT but the Keynote Panel (only) Live Stream and Recording is still open for registration.

Build your skillset in nature-based early childhood education and dig deeper to explore how to address diversity, equity, access, and inclusion in your classroom and community.

The Northern Illinois Nature Preschool Association (NINPA), in partnership with The Morton Arboretum, and sponsored by Antioch University New England, is holding a symposium to bring together early childhood educators, administrators, and naturalists who are interested in nature-based learning.

NINPA is a professional collaborative that promotes, supports, and enhances nature-based early childhood education for all, and as such, our members strive to create a welcoming, safe, and supportive environment by acting with and teaching empathy, respect, and fairness for the natural world and all of its people, while also exploring and intentionally discussing differences and an appreciation for the vast diversity of the natural world. 

Through the 2022 Symposium, Honoring the Earth and Each Other Through Fostering Diversity, Equity, Access, and Inclusion, we hope to inspire practitioners to not only model and practice DEAI in their programming, but to also use their voices to make a larger impact in their communities.

Registration includes access to the Arboretum grounds, morning coffee, and lunch. Participants should come prepared to spend some time outdoors and should dress appropriately.

Recommended audience: Pre-K through 2nd grade 

Continuing education: (4.5 hours- 4.5 CPDHs)


Katie Slivovsky uses she/her pronouns and identifies as white, cisgender, and straight. For more than 30 years, Katie has developed experiences for families at places such as Brookfield Zoo, Morton Arboretum, Lurie Children’s Hospital, and the Aquarium at the Boardwalk.

A long-time nature-lover and advocate for age-appropriate conservation messages, her articles have appeared in Newsweek, Chicago Parent, and While serving as Exhibit Development Director at Chicago Children’s Museum, Katie turned her efforts toward DEAI work, co-chairing the museum’s LGBTQ Inclusion Team and co-founding CAMP: Chicago Alliance of Museums with Pride.

Currently, Katie is working with a group of mostly BIPOC people from across the U.S. to develop an interactive experience in a traveling school bus driven by children’s questions, such as: “What is racism and what can I do about it?” Some days Katie feels she has learned a lot about DEAI work and other days she feels she knows next to nothing.

Keynote Panelists

Jessica Fong began teaching in her native Guatemala in 2007 and returned to Chicago committed to dual language education and nature-based learning as a way to amplify learning for young children and their families in low resource communities. She has been working as a Chicago Public School teacher since 2016 and currently works at Velma Thomas Early Childhood Center in McKinley Park.

Jessica holds two Master’s degrees, one in Early Childhood Education from DePaul University and one in Dual Language and Teacher Leadership from Roosevelt University. She has received various classroom-based grants, such as Pets in the Classroom and Donors Choose grants, as well as an Illinois Department for Natural Resources grant. During the 2017-18 school year she was awarded a Chicago Fund for Teachers Fellowship (CFE) Action Research Leadership Institute Fellowship (ARLI) where she explored the effects of nature play on the language development of young children.

Mariam Murphy is the Youth and Family Programs Inclusion Coordinator at The Morton Arboretum in Lisle, IL. She holds a BA in Special Education from Benedictine University and a degree in American Sign Language Interpreting from the College of DuPage. With her educational background, coupled with a love of outdoor exploration, her focus has become providing opportunities for individuals with special needs to connect with nature. Mariam has more than seven years of inclusive-based teaching experience and is in the process of earning a Certificate in Nature-Based Early Childhood Education from Antioch University New England. She hopes to soon pursue her dream of becoming a pastry chef, while being inspired by local seasonal ingredients in everything she bakes.

Sheila Williams Ridge is a Director at the Child Development Lab School at the University of Minnesota. She has a Bachelor’s degree in biology and a Master’s degree in education. Sheila has more than twenty years of experience as an early childhood administrator, nonprofit administrator, and preschool teacher/naturalist.

She is a facilitator for the NAEYC Young Children and Nature Interest Forum and serves on a variety of boards and leadership teams, including Voices and Choices for Children of MN, Minneapolis Nature Preschool, Monarch Joint Venture, Dodge Nature Center, Before Racism, Environmental Kinship International, and the Natural Start Alliance. She is co-author of the book, “Nature-Based Learning for Young Children: Anytime, Anywhere, on Any Budget,” published by Redleaf Press, and is passionate about encouraging nature-based play throughout the seasons.

Full-Day Registration (Closed)


Includes access to the Arboretum grounds, morning coffee, keynote panel, lunch, and all Symposium sessions.

Discounted Full-Day Registration (Closed)


Thanks to Antioch University New England’s support of the Symposium, a limited number of registrations are available at a discounted rate for participants who might otherwise not be able to attend. Based on the honor system, these discounted registrations are available first-come, first-served. They include access to the same items as the Full-Day Registration.

Keynote Panel (only) Live Stream and Recording (Open)


The Symposium’s keynote panel discussion will be streamed live from 9:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Registrants will receive a Zoom link to the live stream, and a recording will be available for 30 days following the symposium.

Exhibitor (Closed)


Introduce your organization and/or products to a unique audience of early childhood education professionals, and interact with over 150 Symposium participants. Includes regular Symposium registration for one representative, exhibitor listing in the printed conference program, one 5’ X 3’ table, and two folding chairs.

Please contact Emilian Geczi with a description of your organization and the nature of the materials or services to be exhibited. There are a very limited number of exhibitor spaces available, so please don’t delay in contacting us.


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