A friend of mine who runs a local chapter of the Free Forest School asked if I knew of any resources that would help to make her group more inclusive and welcoming to all families – including families of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, and others who are traditionally marginalized from nature education initiatives. While I don’t know of a sole resource that has the magic prescription for this, I spent some time searching the different groups and activists I follow online, plus some of the books I’ve read before, to put together a list. This is something that I think all nature educators should be talking about! The disappointing thing is that no one has written specifically about this topic when it comes to outdoor education, like forest schools and nature preschools and family groups who do nature play. At least not that I’ve come across. So what I’ve listed below are resources that are circling this topic, and only indirectly reference nature education, but could be used intentionally when thinking about how to make your education program more welcoming to families of color, LGBTQ+ families, and historically marginalized other groups.

Some articles/blog posts that get at this topic (albeit from a general “outdoor industry” perspective, rather than outdoor education):

Some organizations related to nature education and diversifying the outdoors that are awesome. Some are further along in this journey than others, and some were founded specifically to include marginalized populations in the outdoors:

And some other random thoughts:

  • This book and author are good to know about
  • I want to read this book which might have some good nuggets
  • Thinking about environmental intersectionality is key.
  • This is my all-time favorite book on anti-bias education for early childhood. It shifted the way I think about everything in my classroom back when I started teaching in Chicago. It’s geared towards educators but could also be helpful for organization leaders and parents.
  • Some ideas that I often see cited as ways to be better allies in the outdoor world, both big and small:
    • Be aware of your marketing materials and who is represented in them
    • Provide books, posters and other visual reminders of the diversity of humanity (the “windows and mirrors” theory)
    • Be communicative about your intentions through a statement or policy about inclusion
    • Put your gender pronouns in your newsletter or email signature
    • Advertise and recruit participants in non-white spaces
    • Be aware of your facility space, including making sure there are safe spaces and gender-neutral bathrooms
    • Recruit and welcome educators and mentors of color at your organization