Michael Freeland, a winner of 2020. Michael is smiling in a grey shirt on a mountain.

Michael Freeland

OISE, Master of Teacher, University of Toronto

Michael Freeland is a recent graduate of the Masters of Teaching program at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. He has a deep love of nature and will take every opportunity he can to get his hands and feet dirty, and to learn from the natural world around him. Growing up, you could find Michael spending each summer running around barefoot at his family’s small, boat-access cabin in Northern Ontario. He still considers this his most transformative classroom, as it was in this outdoor space that he explored, discovered, developed his natural curiosity, and engaged in rich learning.

During his time at the University of Toronto in the Social-Justice and Eco-Justice cohort, Michael became more passionate about seeing students become active participants in their own learning, through experiential, inquiry-based, outdoor learning opportunities. This passion was met by an equal desire to see his practice as an outdoor educator undergirded by a critical social-justice lens. He believes that every child should be provided with outdoor learning opportunities. He also understands the classroom as a space of social change, in which a community of learners can move towards a more sustainable future together.  

For his final teaching placement, Michael jumped on a small plane and travelled across Northwestern Ontario to teach in Pikangikum, Ontario. During his time on this “fly-in” Indigenous reserve, Michael learnt more than he taught. He had the privilege of learning from local community members and elders about traditional practices and land-based education. This experience will shape his practice as a teacher, as it highlighted the need to have Indigenous perspectives and ways of knowing inform his environmental inquiry.