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whole-life skills for a radically different future

Reaching Nature Connection: Storytelling

East Coast Outdoor Conference for Early Childhood Educators, Teachers, Counselors, Parents, and Mentors
May 4-5, 2019Reaching nature connection
9 am–5 pm Saturday
9 am–4 pm Sunday

at Earthaven Ecovillage
near Asheville, NC

With this year's conference theme, Storytelling, presenters Lia Grippo, Kelly Villarruel, and Erin Boehme will take participants on a storytelling journey to develop capacities for using stories as effective teaching tools for nature connection & beyond.

Registration open! 
Follow instructions at bottom of page.

This conference is a program of The Academy of Forest Kindergarten Teachers, co-sponsored by SOIL.

​- Participant in June 2016 conference in Santa Barbara

About the Conference

Reaching Nature Connection is an annual outdoor conference based on forest schools, wilderness awareness, and early childhood education. The conference is designed for beginners and experienced educators alike, as well as therapists, administrators, homeschool families, camp counselors, grandparents, and parents who have an interest in developmentally appropriate nature mentoring for children.

Collaboratively taught by Erin Boehme, Kelly Villarruel, and Lia Grippo

Maximum participants: 35


Earliest Bird $225-400 (first 5 spaces available)
Early Bird $250-400 (next 5 spaces available)
General $300-400
Current ECE Student $225-300 (4 spaces available)


Saturday - Day 1
8:15–8:45am Conference check-in. Please arrive by 8:45 am. Join us for light refreshments!
9:00 am–5:00pm Conference begins promptly at 9:00 am. (break for lunch)
6:30pm Dinner (pre-ordering required)
7:30pm Songs and Stories around the Fire with Eric Wolf and Michael Ismerio.

Sunday - Day 2
8:00am Breakfast (pre-ordering required)
9:00am–4:00pm Conference begins promptly at 9:00 am. (break for lunch)

Packing List

Please be prepared to be outdoors all day with the following items:

  • Travel mug
  • Layered clothing for variable weather
  • Reusable water bottle
  • Chair or blanket for sitting on the ground
  • Notebook and writing implement
  • Your own food if not participating in meal plan

We strive to have a no-waste experience.

CEUs available through Antioch University, Santa Barbara

Circle Under the Oaks

Location and Accommodations

Founded in 1994, Earthaven Ecovillage is located on 329 acres in culturally rich, biologically diverse western North Carolina, about 50 minutes southeast of Asheville and 30 minutes southeast of Black Mountain. Home to 80+ residents, the community is dedicated to caring for people and the Earth by learning and demonstrating a holistic, sustainable culture. The Conference will take place within the forest as well as in the community’s beautiful, hand-built Council Hall.

What to Expect

The Earthaven community is off-grid, which means it sources its electricity from the sun (via solar panels) and water (via two small hydropower stations). It’s very easy to unplug once you arrive, because most cell phones don’t get reception in the forest. (Landline phones are available in the Council Hall for short phone calls or emergencies). The springs and creeks that traverse the land help welcome and invite you into the flow of what is happening in this serene forested setting. Being at Earthaven offers a balance between comfort and adventure.


Several accommodation options are available for attendees on the land and in the surrounding area.

Camping: Participants can camp in the forested Earthaven campground. Most campground sites are designed for two-person tents; some can accommodate larger tents. Several Camper Van or RV spots (no hookups) are also available. The campground offers drinking water, a tarp-covered kitchen with propane burners for cooking and heating water, and an outhouse with a composting toilet and hand washing station. A flush toilet is available in the Council Hall nearby.

  • Camping cost per person: 1 night $35, 2 nights $50, 3 nights $60

Private Indoor Lodging: Provided by Earthaven community members, options range from solitary huts and cabins to private rooms in a community member’s home. Although the spaces may differ, all are simple, hand-built ecospaces that will have at least a bed and a composting toilet nearby. Some spaces will be centrally located, while some will be within a 5–15 minute walk of the village center. An outdoor shower in the campground will be available if your accommodations do not have their own shower. Please indicate your choice in your registration and online shopping cart.

  • Private indoor lodging for 1 person: 1 night $80, 2 nights $125, 3 nights $150
  • Private indoor lodging for 2 people (shared bed): 1 night $120, 2 nights $187.50, 3 nights $225

If you have a preference or need for a particular lodging arrangement, please indicate it when you make your booking and we'll do our best to place you accordingly.

Eva's Testimonial

Off Site: Most visitors who choose not to stay at Earthaven find lodging in Black Mountain, roughly 30 minutes to the northwest, which is the closest town providing standard rental options. Situated between Black Mountain and Earthaven, approximately 20 minutes away, is The Light Center, which offers modest accommodations and a guest kitchen. Other possibilities for traditional lodging include Bat Cave (25 minutes from Earthaven), Lake Lure (35 minutes from Earthaven), and Asheville (50minutes from Earthaven).

In addition to the many hotels and motels that are available, you may want to consider Air B&B or VRBO if you’re looking for something closer to Earthaven than a city center can provide. Greybeard Realty may also be able to help in finding a fitting accommodation.


Delicious, organic, vegan and gluten-free meals (dairy options on the side) are available on site, prepared by talented culinary artists from the Earthaven community. The full meal plan includes lunch and dinner on Saturday plus breakfast and lunch on Sunday; a lunches-only option is also available. Please indicate your choice in your registration and online shopping cart.

  • Full meal plan (lunch/dinner Saturday, breakfast/lunch Sunday): $48
  • Lunches only: $24

How to secure your space

Register: Fill out the registration form. Please give yourself plenty of time to complete the application, because it cannot be saved until submitted. (Your space is not reserved until your payment is received.)

Payment: Payment can be submitted by check, money order, PayPal, or credit card. If paying online, use the widget below to select your tuition and other options, then select "Add to Cart." After the page refreshes, select the "Checkout with PayPal" option and continue through the PayPal website.

Reaching Nature Connection Storytelling Conference
Reaching Nature Connection Storytelling Conference
SOIL offers sliding scale tuition for this conference as part of our effort to create affordable, broadly accessible programs. Please consider your needs and resources to determine what might be a stretch, but not a strain, for you to invest in this personal learning opportunity. On-site food and lodging are available at an additional cost.
Price: $225.00
Tuition Sliding Scale $225–$400 :
Food :
Lodging :

If paying offline, please send a check or money order payable to the following address and note the program for which you are registering for in the memo field. If the participant is someone other than the name on the check, please add their name as well.

School of Integrated Living
11 Full Circle Trail
Black Mountain, NC 28711

* If you are making a financial contribution to another in addition to your tuition you'll need to add that amount to your check or send that money separately to info@schoolofintregratedliving.org via PayPal.

Crowdfunding and Fundraising: Check out our Crowdfunding and Fundraising page for creative ways to engage your community and launch a "Community Supported Education" campaign. This approach can help support your investment in yourself, your community, the planet, and future generations.

Cancellation Policy

If you cancel, you may transfer your place in the program to anyone of your choosing, who will need to register online. You can also donate your place to someone who would not be able to participate without financial assistance.

A 50% tuition refund is available until April 1, 2019.
After April 1, 2019, there will be NO refunds.

If SOIL cancels this program for any reason whatsoever, 100% of your tuition will be refunded.

Contact Gabriel at info@schoolofintegratedliving.org with registration questions.

Check out Earthaven Experience Week

Join the homesteads, farms, and businesses of Earthaven Ecovillage for a hands-on, skill-building immersion in sustainable and climate-resilient community life. The learning journey weaves large-group discussions and classes together with intimate hands-on experiences in the village and farms alongside community members.

Learn More