Evaluating Natureness: Community & family engagement

This post originally appeared in Dr. Rachel A. Larimore’s weekly Samara newsletter on February 13, 2024 and is the final installment of a 3-part series. If you’re interested in receiving these emails, scroll to the bottom of this page to subscribe.

In the last few newsletters I’ve focused on evaluating the natureness of our programs, let’s continue today by looking at questions that can help us measure our family and community engagement efforts.

Family engagement and community partnerships are areas of nature-based education that sometimes get overlooked, but are important components for a thriving program.  Let’s look at each…

Family Engagement

Family engagement is vital to any early childhood education program. For a nature-based program it is essential to integrate nature into this engagement. The big questions to evaluate the effectiveness of a program’s nature-based family engagement:

🔎 How does the program support families to engage with the nature-based approach?

This engagement includes embedding nature-related content in ongoing communication with families. For example, the benefits of nature, appropriate clothing to wear to school, and activities to do at home related to nature. Family engagement also includes nature-based family events where families can connect with one another in a nature-based setting and activities such as a sunset picnic.

Community Partnerships

Family engagement creates a community within the school. Another way to build community is to connect with nature-based organizations in the local community. We can ask the question:

🔎 In what ways does the program engage with local nature-based organizations? 

Engagement with local organizations might mean partnering with a local nature center, animal rehabilitation organization, or city/state/national park. This partnership might be formal where a nature educator visits the classroom regularly. The partnerships can also be more informal where the school borrows artifacts such as animal furs to use in class. These other organizations might also serve as a site for a field trip for children to experience a different environment than what is at school. 

There are many ways to build community within a nature-based program. Engaging families and nature-related community organizations are just the beginning!

Keep changing lives,


Rachel A. Larimore, Ph.D., Chief Visionary of Samara Learning


You may also like…


Inspiring Change Toward Nature-based Teaching


Evaluating Natureness: Quality comes from the people