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Richard Louv
Richard Louv

On June 5 and 6, UT’s Early Learning Center for Research and Practice will host the inaugural Early Learning Institute.

The two-day event will feature keynote speaker Richard Louv, author of The Last Child in the Woods and The Nature Principle. Louv is a journalist and author of eight books about the connections between family, nature, and community.

“Early childhood practitioners, naturalists, and other experts are encouraged to attend and explore rich ways to engage children in nature with this unique professional development opportunity,” said ELC director Robyn Brookshire. “We’re thrilled that Richard Louv will discuss how families, schools, and communities can build nature-rich lives.”

Additional featured speakers include Karen Worth, Dee Smith, and Jeanne Goldhaber.

Worth is a professor of education at Wheelock College and has done extensive work in the area of science education. She has authored several notable publications on the topic, including the Young Scientist series. Additionally, Worth has been involved in a number of National Science Foundation projects, leading efforts to support implementing inquiry-based science programs in schools.

Last Child in the WoodsSmith and Goldhaber will be sharing their unique experience with toddlers during their presentation, “The Woods as a Toddler Classroom: The Emotional Experience of Challenge, Connection and Caring.” The talk will highlight the experiences of the children, teachers, and families involved in this unique context.

Workshop topics for the event include gardening with young children, supporting sensory exploration, photography and pedagogical documentation, birding, and natural learning initiatives.

In conjunction with the Early Learning Institute, an interactive exhibit called Cultivate the Scientist in Every Child: The Philosophy of Frances and David Hawkins will be on display at the Early Learning Center throughout the summer in partnership with UT Child and Family Studies.

Most Early Learning Institute Events will take place at the L&N STEM Academy in downtown Knoxville. Other activities and tours will take place on campus.

Registration fees are $150 for both days or $85 for a single day, and include programming, lunch, and a coffee break. For more information or to register, visit the center’s website.


Tyra Haag (865-974-5460,