Past David Suzuki Fellowship Winners
Grand Prize Winner
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.
Jessie Cowperthwaite is a passionate environmental educator, nature lover, and mother of three. She brings a unique set of experiences to teaching. For ten years she stayed at home with her three young children, which taught her patience, resilience, organization, and inner strength. Recently, she worked as an Outdoor Education Instructor for the TDSB and as a nature connection mentor with the Guelph Outdoor School.
The seeds of Jessie’s passion for environmental education were sown in Victoria, BC, where she completed her BSc in Environmental Studies and Chemistry. In her late twenties, Jessie ventured to Timmins, Ontario, where she worked for Katimavik as the leader of a youth experiential service-learning program and connected with the Timmins Cree community. In Timmins, Jessie met her partner who is Swampy Cree, from James Bay. She got to know his parents, who are Residential School Survivors. Over the years, Jessie has listened to her in-law’s painful stories of trauma and loss. She cradles these stories close to her heart and feels an overwhelming sense of responsibility to place Indigenous voices at the centre of all her teaching.
Throughout her teaching placements, Jessie built learning programs on a foundation of nature connection and Indigenous perspectives. She connected with local elders and took her classes into local natural spaces. She started a weekly nature connection program and worked hard to provide her students with opportunities to slow down, to listen, to connect, and to explore.
Currently, Jessie is working with the Upper Grand District School Board to design a program that presents nature connection as an integrated accommodation to enhance learning. She is interested in a transformative approach that moves nature-based learning away from the periphery of educational discourse, and places it as a central foundation of all teaching and learning
Shanshan is a teacher candidate in Outdoor and Experiential Education, and the President of the Education Student Society at Queen’s University. She is an adventurer, an entrepreneur, a yoga instructor, an escape room enthusiast and a MEC Outdoor Nation Ambassador.
She grew up in China near the gulf of the Yellow Sea and came to Canada with her father when she was 10 years old. As a young adult, she studied Social Determinants of Health and Health Promotion and was struck by the reactive nature of our health care system and wanted to seek alternative ways in building healthy communities. Shanshan stumbled upon the healing powers of the outdoors after she spontaneously quit her job, packed a tent and started travelling as a hitchhiker. She got hooked on exploring new places and learning from the land and the people. Shanshan feels most connected on the trails and in the mountains and sees the outdoors as the greatest classroom that can bring people of all ages, backgrounds, abilities and experiences together. The land has so much to teach us and the expertise lives in the experience.
Shanshan is interested in exploring the intersection of environmental, outdoor and experiential education, and health promotion. In her outdoor education practicum, she worked with youth with addictions and mental health issues in an alternative therapeutic outdoor school. She wants to dedicate her work to bringing meaningful and innovative educational experiences in and out of the classroom. Currently, she is passionate about teaching the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals through escape room games to help youth see themselves as game changers.
“What if we harnessed the power of outdoor and environmental education to change the way we see and interact with the world? Imagine what’s possible.”
Tiferet Nashman is from Toronto and is a graduate of the Master’s of Arts in Child Study and Education program at OISE. She is a passionate naturalist and environmentalist, always striving to learn more about the world around her and fight for continued human survival on our planet. This passion informs her practice as an educator, which she infuses with nature-connection, indigenous perspectives, and environmental consciousness.
Tiferet has facilitated diverse outdoor experiences, including farming at Eden Village Camp, wilderness skills at the p.i.n.e. project, and camping and canoe tripping. While working for City of Toronto Parks and Recreation, she supported community gardens, farmer’s markets, and neighbourhood dinners in local parks. As Shoresh’s Program Coordinator, Tiferet designed curriculum for and launched the first season of the Shoresh Outdoor School, which focused on Jewish teachings of environmental stewardship and nature connection as a spiritual experience. Most recently, serving as the Ecology and Spirituality Intern at the Multifaith Centre, she organized an interfaith celebration of light and candle-making, an evening of indigenous teachings about the maple syrup harvest, and an annual mindfulness retreat at Hart House Farm. Tiferet is deeply concerned about the climate crisis we are facing today and believes in the importance of a nature-connecting pedagogy at this time. She sees sharing her love of nature and fostering hope in her students as a core element of climate action and is excited to bring her enthusiasm to the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study Laboratory School.
Grand Prize Winner
Erin became a teacher because she believes the sharing of knowledge has the power to transform and heal our world. Erin developed this understanding during her time spent learning and working at Trent University, and strove to incorporate this belief into her teaching practice as a teacher candidate at Nipissing University. While studying Indigenous Environmental Studies at Trent, Erin had the privilege of learning from Indigenous Elders and scholars about Indigenous Ways of Living in Nature. During her studies, Erin researched extensively the ways in which our food systems are connected to environmental sustainability. This research inspired Erin to complete an internship on an organic farm upon graduating from Trent. Erin’s first experience as an environmental educator came when she spent two years facilitating environmental programming for students living in residence at Trent. She was able to connect students with environmental initiatives happening on campus and in the community, in addition to mentoring students as they planned their own environmental events. During her time at Nipissing, Erin worked to weave her understanding of the environment into her studies in Education as much as possible. She facilitated workshops on how to incorporate food literacy, and Indigenous environmental perspectives into one’s teaching practice, in addition to creating a resource on how to design and implement an outdoor environmental inquiry program for young learners. During her practicum placements, Erin experimented with different ways students could engage in environmental education. She taught lessons on the impacts of mining on humans and the environment, used natural materials as manipulatives in math patterning lessons, explored with students the nature art of Andy Goldsworthy, and facilitated outdoor education DPA activities. Erin looks forward to continuing to explore the abundant possibilities for environmental education inside and outside the classroom as she embarks on her career as an educator.
Janna is from Manitoba, Treaty One Territory. She is a graduate of the Master of Teaching at the University of Toronto (OISE). Her research explores the impacts of ecojustice education and community-based learning. Janna coordinated Environmental and Sustainability Education (ESE) initiatives at OISE, which empowers teacher candidates to integrate ESE in their own practice. Janna has extensive experience as a community youth worker and environmental educator. This includes facilitating ecojustice programs in Winnipeg through urban agriculture, exploring the hidden rivers of Toronto as an outdoor educator at Evergreen Brickworks, deepening her understanding of Indigenous food sovereignty in Fisher River Cree Nation, or snowshoeing through the thick snow of Northern Manitoba. Her curiosity of environmental education and community-based learning has also lead her to work in Kenya, India, Switzerland, and most recently, China. These experiences have informed her teaching to include social and environmental justice across all subjects.
In Janna’s pedagogy, the natural world is her favourite teaching partner. In her grade 4/5 practicum classroom, students explored their neighbourhood to find “evidence of math” in the natural world. This eventually lead to their use of drama, dance (and division!) to understand global power imbalance in relation to the environment. Through environmental inquiry, she has seen students develop a stronger sense of self, a deeper connection to place, and a tenacious commitment to their communities. She marvels at how much cross-curricular learning can come from observing a leaf float down a creek, or a jack rabbit leap across the snow. Janna is thankful for Natural Curiosity to help support her “backstage” role in the inquiry process. She is currently teaching in Winnipeg where she uses experiential learning, including environmental inquiry, to foster literacy and numeracy at a primary/junior school.
Danielle Feanny first encountered Environmental Education in the Master of Teaching program at University of Toronto, but she has been an avid environmental investigator since childhood. Having lived half of her life in Canada and the other half in Barbados, Danielle has spent countless hours roaming around gullies and forests, roasting breadfruit over bonfires, and stargazing. Now the mother of a beautiful four year old, Danielle strives to encourage this same curiosity and wonder within her own daughter, and in her classrooms. Having led investigations into the realities of Indigenous land rights issues with grade 8’s, guided grade 3/4 students through the creation of their own non-fiction animal books (focussing on habitats, food webs, and extinction), and introduced kindergarten students to the importance of inuksuit in Inuit culture and landscape using sand painting, Danielle firmly believes in the benefits of teaching environmental and social issues from a variety of perspectives. Danielle’s passion and her research are in food studies, where she thinks there is great potential for integrating Environmental Education across the curriculum, and promoting stewardship for the environment. However, she also appreciates the value of just being in nature, having had the good fortune to have a practicum school located beside a picturesque pond.
There, she accompanied classes taking photographs for a social justice photo-journal, and attended a grade 7 workshop on survival skills. She is so excited to continue to deepen her understanding of Environmental Education through the Dr. David Suzuki Fellowship, and to learn strategies for encouraging rich student-led inquiry in the classroom.
Jessie has loved being outdoors since she can remember, spending her summers at wilderness camp and on long camping trips. She spent time leading canoe trips through the lakes of Temgamai as a young adult and this is where she developed a passion for environmental sustainability and a meaningful relationship with nature. Jessie lived and taught in Argentina for a year, where she developed a love for education and for hiking! She then went on to complete her Master of Teaching at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, where she had the pleasure of working alongside Dr. Hilary Inwood on the environmental sustainability initiatives at the school. With a background in visual art, Jessie hopes to integrate her passion for the arts and for environmental sustainability in her work this fall as a visual arts teacher. She loves to bring her students outdoors, providing them opportunities to be inspired by the natural world. She strongly believes in the power of creativity, and enjoys working with students to generate real change in their communities – using creativity as a means to explore innovative solutions to environmental sustainability. Her dream is to someday work in a completely outdoor classroom, infusing both her love for teaching and her love for getting messy outside!
Luxshan Ambi is a primary/junior teacher candidate at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Faculty of Education.
Luxshan takes pride in sharing his love and passion for nature. In his first practicum at Glen Ravine Junior Public School (TDSB), he spearheaded an authentic experiential learning opportunity for his students. Through an inquiry into natural resources, habitats, and communities from a two-eyed seeing approach incorporating Indigenous knowledge, students identified gaps in the urban canopy cover in their community as inequitable and needing to be addressed. Luxshan recognized opportunities to partner with community organizations to bring about transformative change in the school community, identified as one of the city’s Neighbourhood Improvement Areas. Working with his associate teacher and principal, students partnered with the Toronto Parks and Trees Foundation for a stewardship project that saw 100 native trees planted on private property in the community. The event was attended by Toronto Mayor John Tory and commended for working toward the collective goal of 40% urban canopy cover across the City.
Luxshan is dedicated to nurturing resilient students that view themselves as agents of change, global citizens, and lifelong learners. On a field experience in São Paulo, Brazil, Luxshan immersed himself in anti-oppressive educational strategies for equity, diversity, inclusion, and social justice — grounded in the Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire. Luxshan is a strong advocate for environmental education to be able to address all these areas through nature’s universal design for learning. Above all, he believes reconciliation through integration of Indigenous knowledge, opportunities to share diverse perspectives, use of integrated technologies, and promotion of 21st century skills can all be accomplished in tandem with environmental education.
Luxshan is excited to be one of the recipients of the 2017 Dr. David Suzuki Fellowship Award. He is eager to deepen his professional knowledge in the integration of environmental perspectives in all areas of the Ontario curricula through inquiry, experience, and stewardship.
Follow Luxshan on Twitter: @MrAmbiPJ
Leslie was first introduced to Environmental Education when she lead youth with learning disabilities and mental health challenges on canoe trips and hiking trips in northern Ontario. She loved her experience working with youth in an outdoors setting and this led her to pursue her Master of Arts in Child Study and Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. This past year, Leslie completed a grade 3/4 teaching placement in a Dene community school in the Northwest Territories. During her placement, a Dene Elder took the class out on the land to go muskrat trapping. This was one of the most exhilarating days of her teaching career thus far and her positive experience in the Northwest Territories has inspired her to teach in the north next year. Next year, Leslie will be teaching grade 1 in an Ojibwe “fly-in” community in Northwestern Ontario through Teach for Canada. The school is surrounded by the beautiful outdoors so it will allow for ample opportunities to explore the environment through an inquiry lens. Leslie is enthusiastic about the Dr. David Suzuki Fellowship because she is eager to deepen her knowledge of environmental inquiry education as she embarks on her teaching career in the north.
As an avid appreciator of the environment from a young age, Rachel pursued a degree in Environmental Studies at the University of Waterloo, where she was introduced to environmental education through several co-operative education placements at various outdoor education centres. It was after finishing her work terms that she realized teaching was the next step in her career path. Rachel then completed the Master of Teaching program at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education and brought her love for environmental literacy and outdoor inquiry to each of her teaching practica in unique ways. Whether spearheading a school-wide initiative to promote electricity conservation with a class of kindergarten students, exploring the unique connection between biomes and human adaptations with grade 3 students, or coaching grade 4 and 5 robotics teams to improve their designs to mitigate massive environmental issues like space junk and landfill off-gassing, Rachel has and continues to be an active agent of change in her teaching and learning community. She never ceases to be amazed by just how creative children become at environmental problem solving when given the opportunity for guided inquiry. Rachel encourages the students in her life to develop a natural curiosity about the world around them, promoting lifelong learning and helping transform thoughts into action.
Jennifer Ford Sharpe
Jennifer Ford Sharpe is a graduate from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. Jennifer uses visual art to promote eco-literacy and responsible citizenship. Jennifer believes that by observing and creating in nature, students gain a deeper appreciation for their natural surroundings. She also uses visual art as a tool to bring awareness to environmental issues such as waste or climate change. Prior to her degree, Jennifer managed the children programs at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection where she integrated environmental education into family programs, workshops and tours. Jennifer also worked on Imagining My Sustainable City (IMSC), a collaborative project with the TDSB, which teaches students about sustainable architecture and urban design.
At OISE, Jennifer has written articles on art in school gardens, led professional development sessions on eco-art, and co-chaired OISE’s 2014 Environmental and Sustainability Conference. Jennifer worked with professor Hilary Inwood to lead community art projects based on environmental issues around campus. Most recently, they installed a mural with hundreds of painted birds done by OISE Bed, MT and MA students. The large-scale mural brings awareness to FLAP (Fatal Light Awareness Project). FLAP is an organization that informs people about how lights in high-rise buildings can skew the perception in birds and lead to bird injuries and deaths.
Aleksandra Pietrasz is a graduate from the University of Ottawa in Education. During her studies as a teacher candidate, she was a member of the Global Perspectives Cohort which integrates teaching and learning strategies associated with environmental education, social justice, peace, and international development. Through her involvement in various workshops and initiatives, Aleksandra has been committed to learning about environmental education, gathering and developing resources, and promoting environmental issues to both students and teachers alike.
Her passion and concern for the environment stems from a lifetime of camping, hiking, nature loving and concern for animal welfare. Environmental issues have always been at the forefront of her personal interests and concerns, especially with regard to practical sustainable living solutions and Canada’s role in international environmental initiatives. Her commitment to environmental education and activism demonstrates Aleksandra’s dedication to providing her students with real-life opportunities to develop a sense of environmental stewardship. She believes that it is essential for students to build a foundation early in their lives and she is committed to integrating environmental education into her future classrooms. Through outdoor experiences, creativity, experiential and inquiry-based learning, as well inspiring real-world action plans, Aleksandra hopes to provide her students with the skills and tools needed to build a sustainable future for future generations.
Cynthia Chan graduated from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education and also holds a Master’s degree in Environmental Studies. She is passionate about integrating environmental education into teaching practices to support students in becoming responsible citizens. Prior to teaching, Cynthia coordinated energy conservation initiatives for various transit agencies to become more energy efficient. She has also worked on active transportation projects to advocate walking to school for students. In her studies at OISE, she promoted environmental education by facilitating professional development activities for her fellow teachers through hands on workshops and Eco-Fairs. Cynthia strongly believes it is important to learn about the relationships of people to the environment and to preserve natural resources for future generations. She encourages her students to inquire about the environment, experience in the environment and to care for the environment.
Stephanie Goom is a graduate from the University of Ottawa and she is passionate about protecting the environment for future generations. She connected to nature through backcountry canoe trips in Algonquin Park as a youth and knew that she would dedicate her life to conserving, protecting and educating about its importance. Stephanie’s undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies allowed her to fully explore the social, political and economic aspects of environmental sustainability and delve into the world of Canadian ecology and politics. Upon the completion of her degree, she began her career as an Ecologist, working in Canada and New Zealand, completing aquatic and terrestrial baseline studies. Stephanie worked as an Ecologist for 8 years before deciding to pursue her Bachelor of Education in the Developing a Global Perspective for Educators (DGPE) program at the University of Ottawa, to combine her passion for environmental protection with a career in education. As a teacher, Stephanie hopes to prepare students for the 21st Century, where they will be expected to be innovative thinkers that bring advancement and hope to the environment and humanity. Over the past year, Stephanie volunteered at an elementary school with administrators, staff and community members to create an Outdoor Classroom Proposal, that outlined the design, funding and implementation strategy, budget, timeline and ideas on how the build and sustain success for an Outdoor Classroom. It is hoped that the Outdoor Classroom initiative will foster inquiry-based learning and help students make connections between their subjects and the local environment. Stephanie is looking forward to sharing her passion for environmental education with her students and encouraging them to have the confidence to affect change as global citizens.
Paul Tucker is a graduate of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education and passionate about bringing outdoor education into the classroom. An experienced environmental educator, Paul began as a camp counselor – leading training courses at Algonquin Provincial Park and Killarney Provincial Park and engaging in discussions and inquiries about the natural environment. This experience was a foundation for Paul’s interest and passion for the outdoor environment. After his counseling experience and after completing his first degree, he worked as a Research Assistant at the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research in South Africa. With a group of researchers, Paul worked on investigations concerning water quality in a specific province, Mpumalanga. Although the level of this research was well above elementary school level, Paul knew that he wanted to bring this level of engagement in working with students investigating environmental issues. In 2009, Paul became Environmental Education Manager at EcoSpark, implementing guided inquiry programs as well as a particular project named Changing Currents. This program got students outside into their own neighborhood waterways and using biological indicators (bugs) to assess the health of the stream. Paul is keen to share his experience and enthusiasm with students and infuse his practice with environmental education.
Sean Magee is a graduate of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education and has had a connection to the environment from childhood. With summers spent canoeing and foraging for fruits in the forest, Sean has always had a love and appreciation for the natural world. As a canoe, kayak, and ‘natural literacy’ instructor on Toronto’s waterfront, Sean was able to share his knowledge and enthusiasm with diverse kids, realizing that outdoor education could be a uniting and transformative force. Sean continued his interest in the environment with an Environmental Science degree from Simon Fraser University and garnered much experience doing research in the field researching endangered bird habitats. After realizing his desire to work in education, Sean returned to Vancouver to work with a youth education NGO, coordinating a Sustainable Schools program. In his studies at OISE, Sean has integrated environmental education into his teaching, exploring shapes found in nature and researching renewable and non-renewable energy. Sean passionately believe that the best way to learn about the environment is by learning in the environment, and strives to instill a sense of wonder and interest about the environment in his students.
Christine graduated from the Trent University Bachelor of Education Consecutive Program. Growing up in the Yukon Territory, Christine experienced a childhood full of outdoor activities and adventures, including canoeing, camping, hiking, and even building and sleeping in her own snow cave! Christine joined the Eco Mentorship Certificate Program at Trent University, learning from outdoor educators and science teachers, and became committed to integrating environmental education in her own teaching. Christine strongly believes that when students are given the opportunity to explore, observe, and experiment in their environment, they are more curious and caring citizens of the Earth. In a Kindergarten placement, Christine worked with her young learners to consider the impact that they make on the earth and help put their learning into practice by sharing ideas about everyday choices such as saving electricity and being conscious of water use. Christine is a passionate teacher, dedicated to bringing the environment into her classroom and nurturing effective learners and citizens.
Kimberley pursued an undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies at York University, and graduated from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education with a Masters of Teaching. Working as an educator with Ontario Parks and a coordinator at Ontario Environment Network, Kimberley has extensive experience in active involvement with environmental campaigns and movements, and is a passionate advocate of community activism. Kimberley believes in the importance of learning about the environment in a deep and holistic way, and developing students’ experience and enthusiasm through inquiry-based teaching. While teaching water in a Grade 1/2 classroom, Kimberley integrated knowledge, experiments, and research with an inquiry approach centered around students’ questions and concerns; this naturally led to students’ concern about the environment and interest in water conservation. Kimberley is committed to a philosophy that combines social justice, community activism, and environmental sustainability, and providing students with inquiry-based experiences and investigations with our natural environment.
Lisa graduated from the Bachelor of Education Program at OISE in June 2011. She worked hard to foster Environmental Education in lessons spanning the curriculum, using real-world applications that made learning about the environment an interesting and hands-on experience for students in Junior and Intermediate grades. Lisa studied Marine and Freshwater Biology at the University of Guelph and gained an appreciation for experiential learning while completing courses at the University of Waikato in New Zealand. These courses allowed her to practice her laboratory skills in real life scenarios, during field studies and exploratory trips. Her interest in Environmental Education led Lisa to become involved in environmental initiatives on a national and international scale. She has worked for Ontario Parks, the Barbados Sea Turtle Project, the Nature Conservancy in St. Croix, the Ontario Science Centre, and the Richmond Hill Stewardship Program at Evergreen.
Kate graduated from the Bachelor of Education Program at Nipissing University in June 2011. Kate firmly believes that it is important to expose students to nature at an early age. It is Kate’s love of nature that led her to become an outdoor educator, and to earn a degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Toronto, along with an Ontario Teaching Certificate with an outdoor education credit from Nipissing University. Kate believes that environmental education is possible in all settings, and that it is in doing and experiencing that students gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for the natural world. In order to teach science to Junior and Intermediate grades, she used interactive and creative teaching methods designed to get students outside and exploring the world around them. Kate took her love of environmental education and youth to the next level when, in 2009, she decided to bike to work (a 3,400 KM journey from Ontario to Alberta) to raise money for two deserving groups, the YMCA Camp Chief Hector and the Strong Kids Foundation.
The reputation of Jesse Neimus precedes them, as they came to us with an impressive background. They have since become a valued Post-Doctoral Fellow on our team, adding important insights into our work.
Amir is a 2010 graduate from the Bachelor of Education program at OISE. Amir has made exceptional efforts to create integrated, self-directed learning opportunities about our relationship to the Earth’s natural systems during his Teaching Practicum. As a former biology student of Ecology and Conservation at York University, Amir also shows a long-standing personal desire to learn and now teach about the environment. Additionally, his contributions to student learning outside of the classroom and in the local community are a testament to the pervasiveness of his dedication to Environmental Education.
Heather is a 2010 graduate from the Bachelor of Education program at Queen’s University, Faculty of Education. After working abroad in wildlife protection, she returned to Canada to obtain her teaching degree in order to combine her love of teaching with her passion for nature. Her participation in an array of Environmental Education workshops, which have translated into her own practice teaching experiences, demonstrates her commitment to her own professional learning. Heather was also a 2009-10 recipient of a grant through Queen’s Faculty of Education’s Johnny Biosphere Environmental Education Fund, established in honour of the late Dr. Jack Vallentyne, to promote environmental awareness among children.