Meet Your Creative, Passionate & Dedicated Educators/Presenters

(in alphabetical order by first names)

Abigail Smith

Alive in the Hive, Duncan

Abigail (AKA Abigail the Snail), is a Duncan local and is an avid teacher of child-lead art programs and activities. Holding degrees from Fanshawe College for Fine Arts and NSCAD University for Painting, Drawing and Ceramics, she is presently working at Alive in the Hive kids art studio in Duncan, facilitating children’s open-ended art adventures. A multi-sensual and diverse artist in her own rights, Abigail’s knowledge is also bolstered by the skills of ceramics, glass paintings, sketches and improvisations; a very colorful individual!

Allisha Ochs

Cumberland Lake Wilderness Society, Cumberland

Allisha has facilitated wilderness awareness programs with the Cumberland Lake Wilderness Society, worked for nature-based preschools and volunteered for years in nature based classrooms. She enjoys exploring and discovering the wonders of the natural world with kids to inspire curiosity and a lifetime of nature connection. She was fortunate to study Coyote Mentoring with Wisdom of the Earth on Salt Spring Island and pursue Kamana training at the Wilderness Awareness School.

Belva Stone

Muddy Boot Prints, East Vancouver

Miss Belva has been working with children for 20 years. She spent 12 years as a private nanny specializing in children aged 0-5yrs. During the latter portion of that time, she studied at VCC to get her Early Childhood Education certificate. In 2010 Miss Belva accepted her first preschool teaching job at a traditional Montessori school. She worked there for 4 years before shifting directions and assisted in developing an outdoor preschool program in Vancouver and moving onto creating her own outdoor program, Muddy Boot Prints. Belva has been an integral part in pushing to get outdoor education licensed in BC these past few years alongside many reputable academics and fellow educators.

Caila Holbrook

Comox Valley Project Watershed Society, Courtenay

Caila has a Masters in International Nature Conservation and a BSc in Environmental Science. She has been helping Project Watershed look after the sensitive habitats of the Comox Valley and educate people about estuaries since November 2008.

Chelsea Holley

Harry Otter School of Nature Wizardry, Campbell River

I love spending time with children and families in nature. Until recently, I spent four years running a small, nature themed day care from my home. I also have experience working with youth and have put on two summer nature emersion day-camps (with more to come!). Last summer I had the privilege of working as staff for the Art Of Mentoring youth program on Salt Spring Island. I worked with incredible mentors & families, learned a great deal, and had a complete and total blast! I love honing my primitive skills, foraging for wild food and medicine, and I’ve become a fungi fanatic. My own children & husband are my greatest nature companions. Together we go hiking, swimming, fishing, camping, foraging, stargazing, exploring and more.

Cynthia Pollak

AdventureSmart, Parksville

As a member of ASAR and their mounted Equine Search Assist Team (ESAT), I opted to take training for presenting the AdventureSmart program, which makes presentations available for free to any interested group. Tracking has been a useful skill to learn through SAR, too. I also have experience in leading pond, mushroom, and “forest physics” nature walks; presenting spiders and biomechanics at schools; and teaching to all age groups. Currently, I manage a small farm with a riding arena and tutor a variety of subjects.

Erica Van Dyk

Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary, Victoria

While working in environmental education, Erica has been able to combine her two biggest passions – people and nature! From teaching ecological restoration to organic farming, Erica has a wide background of connecting herself and others to the wonders of our natural environment. Currently, Erica is a Program Naturalist at the Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary, where she feels lucky to help provide fun and engaging programs for all ages about the amazing natural marvels around Greater Victoria. When she’s not at Swan Lake, you can find Erica cycling around the city, working in her garden, or planning her next backpacking trip!

Hannah Trice

Hand-In-Hand Early Years Nature Education Program, Campbell River

My interest, as well as love for nature and the outdoors started at a very young age. I grew up in Shannonville Ontario, where I spent most days outdoors; whether in rain, sun and even the snow, exploring and spending countless hours in the surrounding forested area of my childhood home. After relocating to Vancouver Island I discovered my passion for children, which lead me to the field of Early Childhood Education. I believe all children are capable, independent, unique and always ready to explore! I look forward to meeting and creating relationships with all children that I cross paths with as we explore and learn about all the wondrous opportunities the forest has to offer.

Heather Fraser

Saplings Outdoor Program, West Vancouver, Lions Bay, Squamish and UBC Farm

A mother of two, I am passionate about working with children and have a love for the outdoors.  I have taught in a number of early childhood settings including toddler, preschool, and school-aged programs. I have a passion for nature and I am excited to share that passion with others around me. I spend my time gardening with my two children and exploring the beautiful trails and beaches around our home.  I feel that it is so important to get outside whatever the weather and connect with the world around us.  My passion for outdoor play and my understanding of the importance of connecting our children with nature inspired me to build Saplings Outdoor Program.

Highland Secondary Eco Team

Alex Forsyth, Ava Webb, David Schorno, Jenna Leggett, Kate Waddell, Katherine Lyster, Niko Nikov, Robbie Leggett & Sam Rae-Harriss

We are Highland Secondary Students from Comox, made up of motivated and caring individuals from grades 9 to 12. We are SO excited to mentor and share in play with kids of any age in an outdoor setting. Our goal is to contribute to environmental education and inspire others in ecological and personal growth. This IS our future.

Jamie Black

Wild Craft Play 'sCool, Central Vancouver Island

Hummingbird, or you can call her Jamie Black, has a love of facilitating creative play with adolescent children. You may remember Wild Craft Play last year. She is back in her dramatic style, igniting joy and magic with us this year. Be sure to share your passions with her, as she is always keen to feed the dream in you.

Jay Roberts

Taproot Nature Connection, Tofino

Jay (Co-Founder and Program Facilitator of Taproot Nature Connection) grew up on the east coast of Canada, surfing, hiking and lifeguarding. He initially developed his wilderness skills through years of involvement with the Boy Scouts first as a Scout and then as a Scout leader. Jay is a passionate and playful naturalist. He was introduced to Deep Nature Connection by Jon Young and the ‘8 Shields’ Program and is inspired by these practices to guide each person to discover and develop the unique gifts that they have to offer to the world. Jay has received mentoring with the Wisdom of the Earth community on Salt Spring Island. He is a BC Wild Facilitator and has studied with the Wilderness Awareness School in Washington and Forest School Canada. He is certified in CPR C, Bronze Cross and Wilderness First Aid. He holds a B.A. in English Literature from the University of Calgary as well as a Journeyman Carpenter certificate from BCIT. He has completed 1-½ years of his Waldorf Grades School Teacher Training from the West Coast Institute for Studies in Anthroposophy. He has trained with David Weinstock in Nonviolent Communication methods. Jay lives in Tofino with his wife and 2 young daughters. In his free time he enjoys studying the local flora and fauna, climbing trees, wandering the local beaches and forests with his family, surfing, building tiny homes, writing poetry and playing the bass guitar. 

Jody Fink


Mother of 3 busy kids and a lover of the outdoors. After working in the insurance industry for 10 years, I decided to make a career change. I am currently working toward completing my Education Assistant certificate at Lethbridge College.  

Jozef Bienkowski-gibbs

Coast Adventure School, Nanaimo

My name’s Jozef and I’m the co-founder of Coast Adventure School, in Nanaimo, BC. Growing up on a farm in north central British Columbia, the outdoors played a key role in my young life and helped shape the interests and passions that I still pursue to this day. Following a varsity volleyball career at Vancouver Island University, I went on to work as a Lifeguard, Firefighter, Emergency Responder, and Adventure Guide, among a great many other things in between! My passion for outdoor leadership was born of many summers as a student of Educo Adventure School, in Hundred Mile House, British Columbia, where I went on to become a Leader and, in my final year, Program Director. Here on Vancouver Island, I’m passionately pursuing all the outdoor recreation I can manage; from west coast surfing to inland trekking, adventure racing, rock climbing and everything in between, adventure is never in short supply in this wonderful place. My life’s mission is to connect as many people as possible to their own sense of connection, wonder, and respect for the natural world and themselves.

Kat Radford

The Erutan Way, Merville

I feel complete when I am outside, in Nature.  There is a calmness that finds its way, wraps itself around my spirit and brings me to the beauty of balance and serenity.  Perhaps I was a tree in a past life?  Whether it is a karmic path or an evolving inspiration, it is my communion with Nature that has inspired me to seek and redefine the qualities of modern education. I am licensed as an Early Childhood Education Assistant, certified as an Education Assistant/Community Support Worker and have earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts, with a major in Visual Arts. I have a great passion for the outdoors.  This is reflected in the manners I assume both personally and professionally.  In my mind, it is equally important to integrate a myriad of experiences in Nature with my family, as well as to foster an appreciation within the local communities.  I do this through supporting local parks and conservation initiatives and in my endeavours to offer experiences that merge Nature with Art. For the past three years, I have offered camps and workshops uniting my love of the outdoors with Art, education and the soulful spirit of learning.  I called it ‘The HeART in Nature’.  Designed and implemented upon my own accord, this camp was intended to align the learners’ spirit with natural experiences in the wild, and with the essence of their individual spark lending to their autonomous creativity.  Just as Nature constantly changes and evolves, so too does the creative experience. Unknown yet beautiful, each opportunity a magical door just waiting to be opened. I am tippy-toed excited for you join me as you ignite your own spark, feel your heart and experience the enchantment of Nature that awaits. 

Luke English

Early Childhood Education Student at North Island College, Courtenay

Luke (AKA Luke the Kangaroo), is a local of Cumberland, BC and a student at North Island College in the Early Childhood Care and Education certificate program. His experience with child and youth care varies from Child Care provider in South Africa and Laos, to a Youth Performer in Turkey and India. He also has experience child minding in the Cowichan Valley, where he originates. He is currently making a splash in the Comox Valley community as a budding Youth Performer. His interest in childcare are influence by theater, dance, foraging but, most importantly, MUSIC.

Mei Lin Chan

Saplings Outdoor Program, West Vancouver, Lions Bay, Squamish and UBC Farm

Mei Lin is 11 years old, she has always had a love of nature, and learned to climb a tree before she could walk. Mei Lin helps her mom by volunteering with the toddler classes at Saplings during the summer, and is excited to join her to help out at the playshop!

Michelle Peters

Earth Art Studio, North Vancouver

Michelle Peters lives in North Vancouver with her family of 5. She works as a Letter Carrier for Canada Post, which affords her ample time to appreciate all the seasonal beauty of BC. While she prioritizes her current job as well as spending time with family, she also fits in a lot of time for painting, sketching, studying Art History and volunteering at a the Avalon Women’s Centre to do art therapy sessions. Michelle co-founded the Cascadian Crusaders in the Comox Valley and the subsequent publication of “The Great Plastic Round-Up”. She contributes to numerous social media platforms including “Earth Art Studios”, “Creative Crusaders”, Women Who Walk the Mail” and her old blog “Pipunkd”…Her lifelong ambition is to serve the Earth through creative pursuits, continue to find the “flow” in daily life, to attend art school until she’s 80 and to publish a practical guide to recycling everything into art.

Pat McGinness

Muddy Boot Prints, East Vancouver

Miss Pat (featured on right, posing next to Belva Stone, owner of Muddy Boots Prints) moved to Vancouver in the mid eighties from Ontario. She received her ECE certification in 1991 through VCC. After working on the east side of Vancouver for several years, Miss Pat left to explore and work in other parts of BC. When she came back to Vancouver, she chose to work in her friends’ animal care company and still says hello to every dog she meets! Miss Pats love and care for all animals runs deep within her and she passes that passion of care for animals onto the children whenever the opportunity arises—which is often! Miss Pat returned to the childcare field with knowledge of Waldorf and Montessori theories which is where she met Miss Belva, at a Montessori preschool in East Vancouver. When Miss Pat moved to PEI to connect with her family and explore life on the east coast, they both kept in close touch.  Miss Pat enjoyed her time there as she worked in a centre with a manager who was also an advocate of outdoor programming which—which is Miss Pat’s true passion. It was here that she was finally able to create outdoor experiences for the preschoolers she was with and help them develop a deeper love and belief in outdoor education. Pat has spent a lot of time in her kayak and camped in the winter with a fox family around her fire in PEI. “Nature can take my breath away and I think of children experiencing that feeling,” Miss Pat says, ”I am so excited to be working alongside Miss Belva in this outdoor adventure and look forward to sharing the knowledge I have accumulated with the children and learning new things along with them.”

Serena Oliveira

Hand-In-Hand Early Years Nature Education Program, Comox

Serena  is a mother and fellow tree climber alongside her wild willed boys, ages 5 & 10. She is a nature preschool teacher at Hand-In-Hand Early Years Nature Education Program in Comox, and supports families as a professional childbirth educator and Doula. She is the founder of the health and education collective Birthing Freedom in the Comox Valley and feels that building connections with nature in our culture applies to all parts of our lifecycle journeys. With her partner Frank Doss, she runs seasonal rewilding and adventure themed camps such as a Jedi and Wilderness Survival Camps for youth and teens. She weaves together her passions for forest filled adventures, martial arts, dance, primitive skills and embodied life cycle awareness to nurture fun, rewilding connections and experiences to human animals of various ages and backgrounds.

Serena Turner

Thriving Roots Wilderness School and Victoria Nature School, Victoria

Serena Turner is a children’s forest mentor at Thriving Roots  Wilderness School and Victoria Nature School. She trained at the 8 Shield’s Wilderness Awarness School in Washington in the Art of Mentoring. She brings her inspiration from her time in the Arctic with the land, the sky’s and the children of Baffin Island. Thru her connection to her ancestral traditions, She loves to share land art with children, the magic of story, song, and the cycles of the seasons, holidays of the wheel, and lunar cycles. She is a certified rainbow kids yoga teacher, herbalist, and aspiring children’s story book writer. She has a love of wool, wood, stones and all things green!

Shannon Flaherty

Tree of Life Playschool, Victoria

I was fortunate enough to grow up on Vancouver Island, collecting shells and chasing waves on our local beaches and wandering through our island woods. I am most inspired, complete and content when I am immersed in the outdoors. I am now an educator at Tree of Life Playschool in Victoria as well as a yoga instructor and student of Early Childhood Education and Yoga Therapy. After years of working with children in recreation, I began to combine my passions for guiding and nurturing young lights and connecting with Nature by becoming a nature preschool teacher. For the last three years, I have been blessed, honoured and inspired by my work and play as a nature educator; I can’t imagine a better job than exploring the elements, seasons, flora and fauna with a pack of wonder-filled children. We remind each other to spark curiosity, honour imagination and cherish Nature wholeheartedly (including ourselves!). I look forward to sharing my love for story, creativity and connection with folks at this year’s Campference!

Suzanne Field, BSc. RM, ECE

City of Campbell River Community Kids Early Learning Program, Campbell River

I have been working with children for over 12 years as a literacy facilitator, a home daycare operator, an Outdoor Preschool Leader and most recently facilitator for Family Place and the Community Kids Early Learning Program for the City of Campbell River. I love working with preschool children, as they are so enthusiastic and eager to learn about everything. By working with children I hope to give them the gift of self-esteem, curiosity and a lifelong love of education through play based, child led learning. I work hard on socialization and resilience so that when children go through life they have the skills to manage change and conflict successfully.

Theresa Lambert

Maggie Magpie Collections, Cumberland

Theresa is the designer and creator of Maggie Magpie Collections a contemporary seed bead jewelry line. Theresa has been beading since the age of 5 and is now a part time Cultural Presenter teaching beading to children in school.  She is also the only Indigenous Artisan taking part in the Comox Valley Arts Guide and Studio Tour. Her beadwork has an organically sophisticated appeal for individuals who love quality craftsmanship and wearable works of art.

Wendy Poole

Hand-In-Hand Early Years Nature Education Program

My informal early years education began about 40 years ago with the birth of my first daughter on an island across the harbour from Prince Rupert. Six years later, my younger daughter was born in North Vancouver, where I began my formal Early Childhood Education. From Deep Cove, we moved to Sointula where I taught preschool for many years, and opened a daycare. We moved to the Comox Valley in 1998, and soon after I began my 14-year stint at the nurturing Beaufort Children’s Centre, working with infants, toddlers and preschoolers. I left there in 2012 to start up the Preschool program at Saltwater Waldorf School. After four wonderful years there, I felt it was time to retire… until Hand-In-Hand Early Years Nature Education Program reached out to me. Playing outdoors with Hand-In-Hand Education is the icing on the cake. I feel very blessed to have the opportunity to embrace two of the loves of my life, the mystery of nature and the wonder of children. So much is learned and nurtured outdoors, from the obvious to the subtle. I see such value in the hours we spend together outside, rain or shine. Nature rouses curiosity and joy and inspires learning. When we are comfortable in the outdoors, and carry the wisdom of nature’s life cycles, we are more comfortable in ourselves and the greater world. Nature becomes our ally as we wind our way through life’s journey. Another passion of mine, also related to nature, is body and energy work. I studied acupressure for many years, did training in Esalen massage, and more recently have studied Qigong. In this season of my life, it is Qigong that nourishes me at a deep level, along with the great outdoors, my nurturing family, friends and the many wonderful children that I connect with.

Alix Wilson

Hand-In-Hand Early Years Nature Education Program, Cumberland

Currently in my 3rd year as an educator at Hand-In-Hand Early Years Nature Education Program in Cumberland, my love of children and nature extends far into my past! Previously, I ran a nature-based program out of my home for 5 years, and have been involved with young children doing various fun things since I was a young teen. My husband, two sons (14 and 11) and I have lived in the Comox Valley for almost 10 years, and share our home with 2 dogs and a dozen chickens.

Amanda Mottle

Nanaimo Forest Kids, Nanaimo

I first started working with children in my high school and college years through coaching and caregiving. I moved to Switzerland in 2013 where I nannied for about a year before I received my first job at an international early years school. It was there that I truly realized and pursued my passion for early childhood education. The completion of my ECE training was online through Pacific Rim. Practicum one was completed at Montessori School of Zug. I completed practicum two/three at Stepping Stones International School, where I also worked with ages 2-7 for four years. Four years work experience and ECE certification provided me with skills, knowledge, and confidence in the field of working with young children. I am new to forest based school but am passionate and eager to make it my focus of my career in ECE. I believe children thrive through play-based activities and through connecting to nature! I look forward to meeting the children and parents  who are as passionate about passionate about forest school as I am.

Bruce Carron

WildSpirit, K’omoks territory

Born in South Africa, I acknowledge the privilege of using the colonial language of English. As an immigrant-settler, I have lived predominantly around and in the Salish Sea. I am a father of two amazing children, Delfina and Kestrel, whom I live with in the unceded traditional territory of the K’omoks First Nation in the Puntledge watershed. I am a co-founder of Firemaker Primitive Skills Society/Gathering (1999) and the Oak and Orca Bioregional School (1999). I currently run WildSpirit (since 2005) in the Comox Valley, mentoring children and adults towards a deeper connection to Nature. I am a student of Tom Brown’s Tracker school, the Wilderness Awareness School and Nature. The vision of WildSpirit is to shift human consciousness to be in harmony with the wildness of the Natural world. We recognize that there is still “wildness” in every being, that there is a hunger for connectedness and thirst for understanding of one’s place in the web of life. At WildSpirit we offer connections. We reawaken wildness.

Clare McDonald

Hand-In-Hand Early Years Nature Education Program, Cumberland

My name is Clare McDonald and I moved to the island in 2015. I love being outdoors and enjoy reading books, journaling, gardening, cooking, baking, doing all sorts of artwork, playing music and spending time with my family. Yoga is a practice that I feel very passionately about and feel that it has offered me some amazing tools that help in my everyday life, I look forward to being able to share that with you! I began my training at the Yasodhara Ashram in Kootenay Bay, BC in 2009 in the young adult program and returning in 2012 I completed a 9-month residency program and received my certification as a Hatha Yoga Instructor. Subsequently I completed my Hidden Language Certification in 2016 and will be taking training for Kundalini and Dream Yoga this July. Since 2012 I have taught Hatha Yoga at the Robron Centre, in youth programs, addiction treatment centres, the YWCA, childcare centres, and elementary schools. I currently offer classes at Hand-In-Hand as well as at Foundry.

Emerson Chan

Saplings Outdoor Program, West Vancouver, Lions Bay, Squamish and UBC Farm

Emerson is 8 years old. He has been in Saplings since he was 2. When Emerson isn’t up in a tree, or riding his Bike he enjoys whittling and building awesome forts. He is excited to come and help his mom, and show some new friends how to create an awesome adventure playground! 

Frank Doss

Jedi and Wilderness Survival Camp, Cumberland

Frank Doss has been learning woodcraft skills his whole life and has been teaching/sharing with adults and children for over 20 years. 

Gordon Gudbranson

North Island Zone | Conservation Officer Service | Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy

Conservation Officer Gordon Gudbranson works with the Ministry of Environment’s Conservation Officer Services in the North Island Zone. Along with his duties in the field, Gordon is highly motivated and passionate about bringing Bear and Cougar Awareness to the community…for the more education that he can provide, the likelihood of an unfortunate encounter with wildlife will hopefully decrease.

Heather Fleming

Tofino Nature Kids, Tofino

Heather has lived in Tofino/Ucluelet on and off for the past 6 years. She has worked primarily at Jamie’s Whaling Station on the water looking for the incredible wildlife that live in our area, such as feeding gray whales, breaching orcas, wandering black bears and soaring eagles. She has also worked as a kayak guide for Paddle West exploring the scenic waters of Clayoquot and Barkley Sound. Heather has worked in a variety of childcare positions including summer camps and a nature based preschool in Victoria. She has a Bachelor of Science in Geography and an Early Childhood Education Certificate. Her plan to combine her two passions into one job and explore nature with children has come to fruition with Tofino Nature Kids. In her free time Heather enjoys being outdoors, be it walking in the woods in one of our Regional/National Parks, poking creatures in tide pools, or on the water kayaking. She really enjoys travelling and has been fortunate enough to have set foot in over 20 countries. Some adventures she has been on include, chasing animals on a safari in the Great Plains of Tanzania, spying on birds while working as an intern in the cloud forests of Ecuador, and most recently swimming with dolphins in New Zealand. She is looking forward to learning and exploring with you all at the 2019 Campference!

Imke Hubner

Saplings Outdoor Program, West Vancouver, Lions Bay, Squamish and UBC Farm

I began working with children at the young age of 10, growing up in Germany. Since then my love for children has lead me to pursue a career as an ECE Teacher, BI and Program Coordinator for Camps. One of beliefs is that Play is a child’s most important work and I strive to create and maintain an environment where your child can grow and thrive while exploring the world around them.

Jane West

Harry Otter School of Nature Wizardry, Campbell River

Lover of adventures in the great outdoors! Jane has been guiding and working with people in nature since 1995.  After completing her degree in Recreation, she has instructed for Outward Bound, owned and operated a sea kayak company for 12 years, and currently can be found studying Recreation Therapy or running around after her two young boys!  She is very inspired to be involved with the Outdoor Nature Education movement, deepening into her own work… and sharing that passion with the world.

Jennifer Lestage and Christopher Thomlinson

VI Creature Teachers, Campbell River

Jennifer founded VI Creature Teachers in February 2012 offering live, interactive reptile, amphibian and invertebrate encounters to the Vancouver Island community. She has always had a passion for the natural world and the animals we share it with. She got her first pet snake, a female Spotted Python named Montey, when she was 15 years old and still has Montey today. The majority of the animals she affectionately calls her “cold-blooded crew” are previous rescues who required veterinary intervention or rehoming. All of her animals have interesting back-stories that she loves to share with her customers. By using her educational background in Environmental Sciences and Small Business Management she implemented a variety of programs designed to benefit people of all ages. She provides a safe, fun-filled environment so that participants can learn about important conservation issues, animal husbandry, genetics, biology and more. These shows are entirely mobile, appearing on site at birthday parties, schools, daycares, elderly care facilities, fundraisers and more. To quote the late Steve Irwin, “I believe that education is all about being excited about something. Seeing passion and enthusiasm helps push an educational message.” She is a proud two time winner of the Campbell River Chamber of Commerce Young Professional of the Year Award, VI Creature Teachers just won the 2019 Vancouver Island Small Business of the Year award and one day Jennifer dreams of opening up her own educational facility. Chris joined the VI Creature Teachers team in 2015. He utilizes his experience and training in First Aid to assist with veterinary aftercare when new rescues come into the facility. He can also be found assisting in educational shows and performing animal care duties. His favourite animal ambassador to work with is Balerion the Argentine Boa Constrictor.

Kat Hannah, RECE

Saplings Outdoor Program, West Vancouver, Lions Bay, Squamish and UBC Farm

“Kat” or “Teacher Kat” is an outdoor educator with years of experience in forest school programs and full time private forest schools. They grew up on acres of land in a rural area of Northern Ontario where their love for nature began. Kat graduated with a diploma in Early Childhood Education from Niagara College where they developed a deep passion for the early years. Since graduating, they worked in resource and curriculum development and have presented at numerous workshops about forest school, curriculum, risk and adventure play. Kat is passionate about education reform and firmly believes in child-led, inquiry based learning and that learning and play should come hand-in-hand, no matter what age! As a co-learner, Kat is eager to continue learning about West Coast ecology with the children. At Saplings Outdoor Program, Kat strives to create a safe and equitable environment for children where they are free to discuss big ideas, explore, take risks and have wild adventures. 

Kurt Stushnoff

Photographer, Comox

Kurt has generously offered his photography skills and experience in order to capture this event! Kurt is an amateur photographer who is interested in capturing the essence of people in whatever environment they live and play in. He is a father of three boys age 8, 12 and 14 and believes they should grow up active and appreciate the environment. Kurt has spent 25 years in the military and is looking forward to retirement so he can pursue his passions of photography and his love of the outdoors.

Lindsay Coulter

David Suzuki Foundation, Queen of Green, Victoria

Lindsay Joined the David Suzuki Foundation over a decade ago, with a Zoology degree and a passion for nature. As David Suzuki’s Queen of Green she inspires others to claim leadership and use weapons of compassion and insight during this insane time. She’s Canada’s green living expert for more than a decade, as well as an environmental leader and coach, community organizer, facilitator, media spokesperson (radio, TV, print, online), social media maven, courageous conversation starter and naturalist. This mom of two loves to ride horses in the Rockies, leads a serious scavenger hunt and throws the best neighbourhood block parties!

Maureen Wagner

Signing with Maureen, Comox

For over 30 years Maureen has worked with young children and their families as an Early Childhood Educator.  During that time she also worked as an Interpreter for the Deaf and an Intervener for the Deaf/Blind.  Her experiences have taken her through preschools, elementary and high school settings.  She taught sign to the families in her last working position as a StrongStart facilitator in Courtenay, BC.  Maureen is now retired but busy teaching her grand children the joys of signing and being outside. 

Melanie Bagley

Hand-In-Hand Early Years Nature Education Program

Music has been part of Melanie’s life for as long as she can remember. She enjoys performing and currently sings in a local choir, the Celebration Singers. Always willing to share her joy of music, Melanie volunteered with two other musicians bringing the weeklong ArtsCan Circle music workshop to Indigenous kids in a remote Northern Ontario community. A mother and, recently, a grandmother, Melanie has been on-call to sub in the Hand-in-Hand Nature Education Program.

North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre


The North Island Wildlife Recovery Association partners “with the citizens of Vancouver Island to establish a facility for the care of ill, injured and orphaned wildlife and to educate the public on wildlife and environmental issues. We are a non-profit organization that cares for the well-being of Vancouver Island wildlife and strives to educate the public. We continue because of amazing volunteers and incredible community support. Come out for a visit!

Olive Bayne and Kimberley Bayne

Nature Wonders, Comox

We are part of the Hand in hand family. Olive attended Hand in hand as both a seed ages 3-4 and a root 4-5. Olive is excited to share her passion for nature and art with others. Her mother Kimberley is also a nature lover and has a background and education in both outdoor recreation and landscaping.

Renny Talbot

Coast Adventure School, Nanimo

I grow up on a small island off of Prince Rupert where outdoor adventures were a way life. My surroundings fueled a passion for the nature world and outdoor recreation. My passion for the nature world lead me to a career as a marine biologist and my passion for outdoor recreation lead to proficiency in kayaking, rock climbing, skiing, surfing, biking and mountaineering. My recreational skills were developed through annual attendance at an outdoor adventure school starting at the age of 12 where a become a program Leader. As an adventure school Leader I gained skills and training required to safely guide youth on trekking and rock climbing adventures. To this day my passion for the nature world and outdoor recreation remains intact with a heightened focus on sharing my knowledge and skills with people to help connect them to the nature world in safe and understanding environment.

Sarah Eakins

Muddy Boot Prints, East Vancouver

Sarah is an Early Childhood Educator, a Mother, and is currently certifying as a Postpartum Doula. She has a passion for nurturing connections and supporting families, and has over twenty years experience working and learning alongside children, including ten years building her own family child care program while raising her two young children. Sarah’s teaching style is rooted deeply in respectful communication and appreciation for each child as a unique individual. She believes that this approach provides each child with the freedom to develop individual interests and skills in an atmosphere of joyful learning and growth through active play and exploration.  With her love of the outdoors and her playful nature, Sarah has found great joy in her work with children: “When we take away the walls and invite nature to be one of our teachers, we come closer to viewing the world through the eyes of children and truly experiencing the wonder of simple things.”  She attributes her strong connection with the outdoors to a childhood spent helping in the garden, going on family picnics, and camping trips, and spending summers at the lake. She finds peace in nature and still can’t resist a picnic!

Seva Ganga

Inner Smile Montessori, Courtenay & Comox

Seva is the Director of Inner Smile Montessori; he is a licensed ECE, has taught preschool full-time for 6 years and has worked with children in variety of other capacities. He brings a gentle and caring male presence to the classroom and enjoys making art, exploring practical life skills, natural sciences and movement with children. He is a trained and experienced Montessori teacher, has worked in a Waldorf-inspired preschool and is experienced in teaching children yoga and music.

Sue McGiffin ECE, SN, IT, RYT 200

Hand-In-Hand Early Years Nature Education Program, Comox

Sue’s passion for yoga began many years ago when she lived in the Pemberton Valley. With her husband and daughter she moved to the Comox Valley in 2012. Along with her yoga practice Sue is part of the teaching team at Hand-In-Hand Early Years Nature Education Program. She has recently developed and implemented a children’s yoga program at Holy Cow Yoga Studio and the Comox Community Centre and has witnessed first hand the physical and emotional benefits of allowing children room to move and explore within their learning. Sue is very excited to share her new knowledge and continue to teach yoga to children in a fun and creative way.

Susi McMillan

Panorama Forest Explorer Program, North Saanich

Grew up in Germany and has vivid childhood memories of exploring the outdoors and playing in the forest, fields and mountains. After a turn into the corporate world, she traveled around the world and settled in Canada. She now lives with her 15 and 18 year old  teenage girls and husband on the Saanich Peninsula in Sidney, BC since over a decade. As a Forest and Nature School Practitioner through the Child and Nature Alliance Canada, Susi is the leader of Panorama’s nature-based, early learning program at Centennial Park, since Sept 2016. She is combining her knowledge in event planning and early childcare education in a forest setting where every day will be a new adventure! Her biggest passion is creating events where families and communities connect with each other and nature. Her Moonlight Adventures and Crafting With Nature events are just one of the few new family program offerings. Watch out…Susi is also know as Susi Sunshine, the magic face painter. She will make sure we have colourful owls, wolves and eagles joining the KIDS Conference. Susi McMillan is generously face painting by donation, where 100% of the proceeds goes to the HIH In-House Subsidy Fund!

Tomiko Collins


As a science enthusiast, I love exploring the west coast with students and my family. Any chance to get out and touch, taste and get down with nature is my thing.

Tricia Edgar

Fresh Air Learning, Vancouver

Tricia is one of the founders of Fresh Air Learning, a forest school for children ages 2-12 that runs in parks around Metro Vancouver. She’s been an outdoor educator since she was a teenager, and she loves the play-based philosophy of forest school. Tricia enjoys singing with children at nature story time and in her groups, and she’s occasionally found in choirs and bands, where she plays the French horn. She’s looking forward to bringing forth our communal knowledge of songs!

“Hand-In-Hand Early Years Nature Education Program would like to extend a sincere thank you to all of the educators and presenters who have generously donated their time and effort to share their skill, knowledge and passion with us all. With all of these wonderfully creative people coming together, we are able to offer you and your little ones an unforgettable experience focused on interacting, exploring and connecting with nature!”



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