About the Summit

Join 100-200 of your nature and environmental learning center peers during the ANCA Annual Summit! Network, learn, share, and return to your center inspired. ANCA's Summit focuses on open discussion and providing space for collective knowledge sharing. To that end, we have pioneered Open Space Sessions that many participants attest is their favorite part of the event. In addition, take the chance to learn from the Summit host site which is a different nature or environmental learning center every year, where you can see different kinds of programming and administration in action. Don't miss this professional development opportunity! 

Types of Programming

Full- and Half-Day Workshops  you choose which ones to attend when you register. These sessions offer a rich learning experience with workshop leaders who are experienced and knowledgeable in their topics.

Facilitated Discussions - a unique feature of the ANCA Summit. Instead of a single voice presenting information, everyone present will enrich the discussion by contributing his or her ideas and experiences. The result is a synergistic dialogue that brings out an abundance of perspectives, possibilities, and renewed energy. During Facilitated Discussions, participants can explore various topics in depth.

Workshop Sessions - allow participants the opportunity to learn about new programs and ideas. These 90-minute sessions allow for presentation time and dialogue among the group.

Open Space - provides an opportunity for participants to create their own meeting, continue a session that needs more time, or find a group to address an issue that was not presented elsewhere during the Summit. In the Open Space Meeting, Summit participants will gather and collectively design the session topics that will be offered during the afternoon. We ask you to bring to the meeting those topics that you feel will be relevant and meaningful to you and the group.

Pre- and Post-Summit Field Trips. Don’t leave the Summit location without time spent exploring the local flora, fauna, food, and culture of the area! ANCA Summit Field Trips offer the chance to add to your professional development experience while taking advantage of unique opportunities to visit additional nature education sites, spend time with local experts, and interact with your peers. These field trips are designed with ANCA members in mind and should not be missed!

And More...!

The ANCA Summit is hosted at an ANCA member center which gives participants the opportunity to: meet and talk with the staff; tour classrooms, exhibits, and trails; go behind-the-scenes to look at offices, storage, and maintenance; and simply relax and enjoy the flavors of the region through food, drink, and unique entertainment!

Sample Topics

In the past, Summit programming has featured:

  • Strategies for Recruiting the Board You Need & Will Need
  • Building Organizational Capacity
  • Getting the Grant
  • Grassroots to Grasstops Advocacy
  • Generational, Cultural, & Personality Differences in the Workplace
  • Successes and Challenges for Sustainable Development Goals for Your City
  • Keeping Our Frontline Staff on the Cutting-Edge
  • Turn Bitterness & Tension into High-fives & Laughter!
  • Improving the Experience through Signage & Graphics
  • Leadership 101: Best Practices for Achieving Impact
  • Rentals: How to Maximize Income AND Minimize Impact
  • Stronger Together- Partnership Models
  • Benefits of Electronic Health Records at Camp
  • Weathering Disaster Response
  • Outdoor classrooms- Design and Purpose Dialogue
  • Challenges and Opportunities when Diversifying Your Board or Friends Group
  • Creating Meaningful Social Media
  • 1,2,3 Ecology
  • Budgeting 101: Making 'Cents' Out of Budgeting
  • Say What You Mean: A Conversation on Inclusive Language and Practices
  • Fee Structures: To be Free or Not Free?
  • How to Ask for Major Gifts
  • Retirement 101
  • Building Power & Influence for Nature Center Directors
  • Improving the Visitor and Staff Experience
  • Nature Preschool, Right for You?
  • Social and Emotional Learning: Why Incorporating Best Practices in Youth Engagement Matters

& more!

What Others Say

"Attending the Summit was a wonderful experience! I met amazing individuals working in amazing places doing amazing programming! It is so beneficial meeting and talking to a variety of folks about what is working for them, new programming ideas and even what doesn't work. Between the networking and the sessions I came away with new inspirations to enhance my facilities programming. I have already been in contact with a few folks from the conference and am looking forward to collaboration efforts in the future." - 2017 Summit Scholarship Recipient

“Wow. The Magnolia Summit left me speechless! This conference was so much more than I expected. I was able to connect with the majority of the participants, both on a professional and personal level. This was something that I did not realize I needed until the conference. I did not have a support system before, but now I do. I left McDowell feeling refreshed.” - 2017 Magnolia Summit Attendee

"The ANCA Summit was so much more than I could have expected. The structure of workshops and facilitated discussions and the sharing of experiences (good and bad) from veterans of the field was immensely useful and there was a great balance of learning and networking." - 2017 Magnolia Summit Attendee

“By the end of the first night of the Summit I felt that I had made at least a dozen new friends. Everyone was so enthusiastic, so open to the group and the experience; I very quickly felt less like I was amongst one hundred and fifty strangers, and more as if I were attending a reunion composed of old companions. 

And that feeling, that atmosphere, was not felt exclusively at meal times or social hours, but throughout the entire conference. The facilitated sessions were extremely productive and entirely inclusive. The educational hikes and salamander hunts were brimming with enthusiasm and knowledge-sharing. The speeches were inspiring and heartfelt. When Sunday was said and done, and the Summit had come to a close, I was filled with an invigorating energy and deepseated inspiration. It had been a true privilege to spend the weekend with the ANCA folks, learning from the vast collective knowledge, trying to soak up any bits of wisdom that were undoubtedly saturating the Walker Valley air. 

Now, let us take a moment to consider the source of my energy and inspiration. The company I had kept throughout the weekend was made of fellow humans that have dedicated their life's work to connecting people and nature. Humans that have sought to inspire a sense of wonder in our country's youth and elders alike. Humans that have pushed through high and low economic times to keep their nature centers, their sanctuaries, their preserves alive, healthy, and open to our citizenry. Humans that are dedicated to passing on a love of and respect for the natural world to the next generation.” - Caleb Carlton, Teacher and Naturalist at Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont, Attendee of the 2011 Summit

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