Principles and guidelines

for using nature as a teacher in youth work

Nature’s Intelligence

Dating back to the earliest Greek philosophers, people have viewed the natural world as intelligent – as being alive and ensouled. Throughout nature there is evidence of complex functioning, which seems to be closely aligned with human functioning. Starting from the assumption that nature has some kind of intelligence, it follows that nature can serve as a teacher. Or, if you prefer, a facilitator, an inspirer.

In general, working with nature as a teacher means that you use  the ‘intelligence of nature’ (as a property of nature) as a starting point for promoting ‘nature intelligence’ (as a property of humans). Interweaving these two properties provides a solid and unique base for youth work.

Principles and guidelines

There are four basic intelligent properties of nature that may serve as principles for promoting NQ in youth work: wholeness, diversity, cycles, and forces. For each of the principles, we give you some guidelines for how to apply the principle in your activities and programmes.

• Connect
• Include all elements
• Be coherent and authentic
• Acknowledge basic developmental needs

• Be aware of different entry points.
• Listen to the wisdom of the whole circle
• Engage all senses
• Celebrate complementarity

• Respect different phases of cycles
• Understand crisis as a natural phase
• Allow regeneration
• Use patterns

• Connect to nature’s powers
• Be creative.
• Support transformation
• Leave space for magic to happen


You can learn much more about the principles and guidelines in the manual for youth workers.

Please feel free to take these guidelines as an inspiration for your own remixes rather than a recipe. Follow the principles and create your own event. Enjoy!

Curriculum for youth workers

We also prepared for you an example of a course to train youth workers and educators on how to put NQ into practice.

Residential training course

In April 2022  we put our theory into practice by organising a residential training course for young people from all over Europe. The course was held in a castle-like place in the Netherlands, that used to be a girls’ boarding school

It was a pilot course,an experiment, the first event of its kind. We had a great time and we learned a lot from it.

We encourage you to organise similar events in your own country, and try out for yourself how NQ can be put into practice.

A promotional video made during the event can be viewed on YouTube