Fiona Balasi

Comox 2 nature educator

I am excited to be returning to Hand-In-Hand in Comox after a few years away from the professional ECE world during which I have been working with adults with disabilities and doing the wonderfully unprofessional work of raising my own small child.

I have lived in the Comox Valley since 2016 when I graduated from Capilano University’s Early Childhood Care and Education program and moved from Vancouver to lead a wilder and quieter life here on the Island. I spent that first whirlwind of a year teaching the Campbell River Hand-In-Hand program with Sue Cameron and it was the biggest and most rewarding learning curve of my life to that point. Immersive and emergent outdoor education is such an incredibly powerful experience and as a so-called teacher, I feel that I am really a learner alongside the children and as a pupil of the natural environment.

I grew up in an ‘unschooling’ family, which means that my learning took place everywhere, all the time. I believe that children can’t help but learn from every experience and that with mentorship and the help of dynamic, living environments full of human and non-human interaction we can support them to find empowering, connecting, skill-building and motivating lessons in their experiences. As a person with a dis/ability, I also emphasize inclusion in my work – people with all kinds of physical needs and abilities should be able to enjoy nature-based learning. Growing up with a serious heart problem, outdoor play was often exhausting, scary and lonely. A big part of my journey has been to overcome that intimidation, ask for help, and nurture my love of wild spaces – I hope to support all kinds of children in that journey as well.

Returning to outdoor education as a parent, my commitment and connection to this work is deeper than ever. I bring to the woods and the work a love of learning, profound respect for children, a commitment to gender, racial and dis/ability justice, a massive curiosity about the world around me, and lots of favourite songs and books.