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whole-life skills for a radically different future

Reaching Nature Connection: Singing Snails and Rainbow Tails

East Coast Outdoor Conference for Early Childhood Educators, Teachers, Counselors, Parents, and Mentors
May 28-30, 2021


Image of young people out in the forest amongst boulders and trees

at Earthaven Ecovillage
near Asheville, NC

With this year's theme, Singing Snails and Rainbow Tails, presenters Lia Grippo, Kelly Villarruel, and Erin Boehme will immerse participants in timeless crafting, joyful singing, and the freedom of play all in the spirit of the young child.

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

CEUs available through Antioch University, Santa Barbara.

Registration is not open yet.

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.

Scenes from the reaching nature connection conference

Reaching Nature Connection invites you to join in an exciting weekend of hands-on, research-based, and anecdotal learning. As always, the conference will be infused with songs, games, stories, and deeper nature connection.

Reaching Nature Connection provides an opportunity to set your watch aside and allow the leaders of the conference to hold time for you. The rhythm of each day is designed to move between active and contemplative learning, with a thematic thread running throughout. We will flow between lecture and hands-on components, weaving together our learning through a variety of approaches, with each new component building on the next.

Collaboratively taught by Erin Boehme, Kelly Villarruel, and Lia Grippo with special guest Doug Elliott.

Learn more and invite others to Wild Tales - Strange but True Adventures in the Natural World with Doug Elliott.


Friday, May 28
6:30pm Dinner (pre-ordering required)
7:30pm An evening of stories and songs with Doug Elliott (optional)

Saturday, May 29
8:00am Breakfast (pre-ordering required)
8:30–8:45am Conference check-in. Please arrive by 8:45am.
9:00am–5:00pm Conference begins promptly at 9:00 am (break for lunch)
6:30pm Dinner (pre-ordering required)
7:30pm An evening of connection and peer-mentorship (optional)

Sunday, May 30
8:00am Breakfast (pre-ordering required)
9:00am–4:00pm Conference begins promptly at 9:00am (break for lunch)

Reaching Nature Connection Conference participants standing in a circle in front of the council hall


This program takes place at Earthaven Ecovillage. This permaculture-based community offers a unique living classroom where participants will engage with the natural world, eco-infrastructure, and the intimate experience of rural community living.

What to Expect at Earthaven

Nature scenes photo collage including stone road, flowers, and waterfall

Several accommodation options are available at Earthaven Ecovillage and in the surrounding area.

Cost per person: 1 night $35, 2 nights $50, 3 nights $60

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

Off-site options
Various options in Bat Cave, Black Mountain, and Asheville.

More about Accommodations

Earthaven is nestled in the heart of the rural Southern Appalachian Mountains, 30 miles outside of Asheville, NC on curvy mountain roads and within two hours of three airports.

More about Travel


Image composite of pasta dish, soup bowl, and a salad

Delicious, omnivorous meals are prepared by talented culinary artists from the Earthaven community. Vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options available. Snacks and beverages (tea, coffee) are provided. Participants are invited to help with meal clean-up. Many hands make light work.

As much food as possible is sourced from Earthaven and its surrounding farms and gardens, with some ingredients sourced from local grocery stores. Our meals are created with seasonal, local, fresh, wildcrafted, humanely-raised, and organic ingredients.

***If you have dietary needs beyond the ones listed here, please be prepared to bring supplemental food to support your nourishment and well-being. Our kitchen simply cannot accommodate all diets.

The full meal plan includes 6 meals, Friday dinner through Sunday lunch. A partial meal plan is also available; you can select anywhere from 2-5 meals. On your registration you will be able to indicate which meals you want.

Options available: Friday dinner, Saturday breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Sunday breakfast and lunch.

    • Full Meal Plan (6 meals): $72
    • Partial Meal Plan (5 meals): $60
    • Partial Meal Plan (4 meals): $48
    • Partial Meal Plan (3 meals): $36
    • Partial Meal Plan (2 meals): $24


Tuition Sliding Scale: $300-$400

Current ECE Student
If you are a current ECE Student, please email us for a 25% off coupon code to use at checkout, at info@schoolofintegratedliving.org.

Tuition includes instruction, and all materials. Camping and private indoor lodging are available for an additional cost. Meals and transportation are available for an additional cost.

We offer partial scholarships (50% of the bottom of the sliding scale) to black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) who otherwise would not be able to afford to attend. We understand that BIPOC experience more financial and institutional barriers to participation, and this is one way we are able to create more access. If you identify as BIPOC and would like to receive a scholarship, please contact us at info@schoolofintegratedliving.org.

Happy participants at the Reaching Nature Connection conference

How to secure your space

Step 1 - 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.)

Registration is not yet open for 2021.

step 2 - Payment: Use the cart below to select your tuition, meal, transporation, and lodging options, then select "Add to Cart." After the page refreshes, select the "Checkout with PayPal" option and continue through the PayPal website.

SLIDING SCALE: Because some people have more financial means than others, we have created a sliding scale fee system to accommodate a range of economic realities. The high-end of the scale reflects the value we believe the program holds, and the low-end offers a more accessible entry point. By choosing a higher price point, you are helping make the program more accessible to others for whom the low-end may be cost-prohibitive. Please consider your needs and resources to determine what might be a stretch, but not a strain.

Registration is not yet open for 2021.

We also accept checks or money orders payable to the following address and note the class for which you are registering in the memo field:

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

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 registration to a friend (they would need to register online).
  • Donate your place to someone who would not be able to participate without financial assistance (SOIL would handle this).
  • Request a refund per our policy:
    • 90% refund for cancellations prior to 30 days before the start of the program.
    • 50% refund for cancellations prior to 10 days before the start of the program

If SOIL cancels this program for any reason whatsoever, you would receive a 100% refund.

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

Learning some primitive skills at the Reaching Nature Connection conference produced by SOIL

Experience a developing ecovillage for yourself!

Most of SOIL’s classes take place at Earthaven Ecovillage, giving participants a hands-on, skill-building immersion within an authentic community-based, village setting. Tours of Earthaven are also available on a monthly basis, a great way to dip your toe into this long-standing, intergenerational social experiment.

Learn More
COVID 19 Response: SOIL is publishing resources and deferring all programs to 2021.Read More
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