Outdoor Environments in Jewish Early Childhood

Facilitator: Shariee Calderone
Format: Hybrid (includes some virtual)


This action network will deepen educators understanding of nature-based learning while enriching their knowledge, strategies, and approaches taking place in their own school setting. Educators will explore the elements and environments that support more self-directed and independent play and unpack some of the benefits on children’s learning and social emotional wellbeing. We will look at existing frameworks that lay the foundation for more natural play and outdoor learning. Participants will be encouraged to identify a goal for improving their practice and environment and to observe and share noticeable outcomes on your children and families. Participants will also gain more confidence communicating with families. This online network will include the sharing of photos and other documentation from each other’s schools as well as one or two site visits during the year to see nature play in action.

Additional information:

This network is for early childhood professionals ready to make better use of their surroundings, outdoor classrooms, or surrounding “beyond” to foster children’s agency and participation in managing risk for themselves.

About the facilitator:

Shariee Calderone is a Sr. Communal Education Consultant specializing in early family engagement and nature-based education in early childhood settings. Shariee is also the project manager for Music Together® Sing Shalom.

Shariee Calderone


I’ve finally had the chance to dive deeply into the issues surrounding risky play in young children. Before joining the network, I admittedly didn’t see the complexities involved in encouraging professionals to embrace risk in free play. My eyes opened to greater understanding and as a result I hired a speaker for our annual conference on the topic!

- Leemor Ellman, Director, Empowerment for Families with Young Children

Thank you for provoking our thinking and for promoting a culture shift among our staff and families!! I’m excited about the learning opportunities the risky play mindset provides for our children and I can already envision the positive impact on their future!

- Dina Blesofsky, Head of School, Chabad of Northern Queens.

In addition to being more mindful of providing children with "risk"y experiences to support their growth, the network has also helped me embrace the idea of involving the children in creating these experiences as they learn valuable lessons in assessment of risk.

- Emily Herzfeld, Beth El Synagogue, New Rochelle

Stories of impact:

Early childhood educator EH knows young children need robust outdoor play experiences. Yet she also recognizes that most outdoor play spaces, including hers, have “taken all the fun and excitement out” in an effort to protect children from any harm. As part of her involvement in the nature network this year, EH has had to grapple with the tension between her role as a caregiver while also wanting children to take on more challenges that could help build their strength and self-confidence. Because EH already has a strong affinity for nature herself, she didn’t need the network to convince her of its benefits overall, but she did need the extra support to go from believing to doing! In just a few short months she became more intentional with the language she used around children during play, presented new ideas to her colleagues at a staff meeting, and is now strongly advocating for adding a tire swing and other more challenging equipment. EH is also planning a “day of play” with others in the network which she believes will help her spark first-time conversations with both parents and colleagues and give examples of more adventurous play.


Glimpses are a way of looking into a Network to learn more about how they think and function.

One way network participants have helped other members is...
In this network educators share their school’s written policies and/or examples of communications to parents and staff about their approach to play outdoors.

One interesting case study or presentation that our network experienced is...
An educator in our network recently helped us all engage in a conversation about a very familiar piece of play equipment, the slide. Looking at how children use the slide through the lens of risky play enabled everyone to reflect on their own experiences while also challenging some of their own fears and policies.

One way this network impacts learners is...
This network challenges assumptions educators have about children’s play and safety. Helps educators see the difference between risk and hazard.


September 17 (Info Session), October 29, November 12, December 10, (2020) January 28, March 31, May 5


2:00pm - 3:30pm Eastern

Designed for:

Associate / Assistant Director, etc.
Director / Principal / Head of School
Educator / Teacher / Youth Professional
Independent Educator


Hybrid (includes some virtual)

New members:

New members

Geographic Region:

Long Island
Staten Island

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Related Resources

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