Residential Environmental Education Partnership on Social and Emotional Learning
July 11, 2018 - 10:49am

NatureBridge Announces Partnership Opportunity

Each year, residential environmental education (EE) providers collectively touch the lives of nearly one million young people in the U.S. – these children spend multiple days with their classmates, sleeping away from home, sharing meals, engaging in learning in outdoor settings. Alongside gains in scientific discovery, an understanding of ecological systems, and increased comfort and appreciation for the outdoors, residential EE settings are well-poised to support growth in social and emotional learning* (SEL).

As interest in SEL grows nationally, classroom teachers, district leaders, and parents increasingly demand attention to social and emotional skill development. While many residential EE providers strive to create inclusive learning environments and increase personal and interpersonal development through immersive programming, we lack a common language and framework for these efforts.

With funding from the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, NatureBridge is convening a group of organizations over the course of a year (mid-2018 to mid-2019) to collaboratively work through the question of how to most effectively incorporate SEL frameworks, research, and preferred practices into residential EE programming. NatureBridge is eager to engage with other residential EE organizations to develop such common language and better understand the role of SEL in our field; we are both excited about and humbled by the opportunity to collaborate with others to contribute to our sector in this way.

With this note, we introduce the Residential EE Partnership opportunity and launch the process of inviting collaborators to join the effort. NatureBridge’s aim is to aggregate collective wisdom in the service of establishing common language and developing shared tools related to SEL in the context of residential EE, and ultimately, to disseminate findings from the working group to the extended residential EE community. The working group will be facilitated by an external partner, Learning for Action (LFA), to support us in ensuring that this effort is truly collaborative and that we will achieve our goal of benefitting both participating organizations and the field as a whole.

*The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) defines SEL as “the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions ( We also recognize the overlap between SEL and diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. 

Member Expectations, Compensation, & Participation Criteria

We anticipate that participating in the partnership will require a time commitment of up to 80 hours per person over the course of the year. We invite two staff members per organization at the Program Director level or higher. As members of the partnership, you will be asked to:

  • Participate in 3 one-day in-person meetings, with at least two occurring on the west coast
  • Participate in monthly video conferences
  • Respond to periodic email communication and engage in review of materials between meetings
  • Engage authentically and collaboratively in this generative learning process

The term of service for partnership members is one year, commencing in September 2018. We recognize that effective collaborations require investments in personnel costs and that many EE staff are already overburdened and organizational budgets stretched; the grant was written with that in mind. In an effort to approach compensation in an equitable way, participating organizations will receive reciprocity grants of no less than $6,000 to compensate for the time required to participate. This rate was determined by assuming participation for two individuals at a program manager level or higher (one education leader and one senior administrator). Travel (air, food, and lodging) expenses for the in-person meetings will be covered as well.

We will have our first convening in late September or early October where we will launch the work of the partnership by collaboratively drafting our charter and agreeing on decision-making and other group agreements and learning more about each participating organization’s approach to social and emotional development with youth in program.


Who Within the Organization Should Participate

We ideally seek two different types of perspectives from your organization throughout the process: 1) deep experience in leading EE on the ground, preferably with an SEL or youth development focus (e.g. Education Director) and 2) organizational decision-makers (with or without direct EE and SEL knowledge and service experience) (e.g. CEO/Executive Director). The ideal participant team includes organizational leaders who may have all or some of the following responsibilities:

  • Design and delivery of staff training and ongoing professional development
  • Oversight of hiring and onboarding of educational staff (instructors, managers, etc.)
  • Implementation of educational mission and vision
  • Establishment of organizational culture from line staff to board
  • Determination and assessment of program outcomes and leadership of organizational learning

We expect who in the organization this is may vary depending on the size and structure of your organization.

Selection Process

If you meet the criteria above, please complete this brief survey so that we can learn more about your organization and your interest in engaging in this work. The information you provide will help to ensure that we have a diverse representation of organizations in the formal partnership who are able to commit the staff time and have the relevant expertise needed. Please feel free to share this opportunity with organizations that you think would be interested and important to involve in these conversations.

In the ideal, it would be possible for every interested organization to participate in the partnership; unfortunately, we face the reality of resource constraints—both time and money—and therefore must select a small group (up to 10) of diverse organizations to participate formally in the partnership. However, we will regularly create opportunities to engage a broader group of interested organizations (e.g., at EE conferences and events) to receive input and feedback on the products and ideas generated by the core partnership. You can subscribe here to get updates on our progress and learn about opportunities to share your insights.

We anticipate the survey will take about 20 minutes to complete. Please share your responses by July 31, 2018. We may follow-up with a phone call to answer any questions you may have about the partnership and to learn a little bit more about your organization’s interest and current work in advancing SEL outcomes through residential EE programming. In the meantime, if you have any questions about this process, please email We will share responses to all process-related questions on this landing page in the FAQs section as they come in.

Frequently Asked Questions

(To be added to as questions come in from interested parties.)

Q: Is the Residential EE Partnership on SEL open to organizations outside of the US?

A: While we had not originally imagined working with programs outside the US, if your organization could contribute in a meaningful way, then we would encourage you to apply. Some of the research we have relied on ourselves has come from outside the US. As long as your organization is open to exploring frameworks developed by institutions based here, your location should not exclude you from participating. Please note, though, that the travel budget does have some contraints. We haven't finalized those guidelines yet, and while we should have sufficient funds to cover any reasonable costs, there will be a cap on what we are able to reimburse.