Our Team

Toronto

Indigenous Territory-Aki

Toronto has been a site of human activity for 15,000 years. The land is the territory of the Wendat and Petun First Nations, the Seneca, and most recently, the Mississaugas of the Credit River. The territory was the subject of the Dish with One Spoon Wampum Belt Covenant, an agreement between the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and Confederacy of the Anishinaabe and allied nations to peaceably share and care for the resources around the Great Lakes. Today, the meeting place of Toronto is still the home to many Indigenous people from across Turtle Island. Natural Curiosity is grateful to be learning and working in this territory.

 

Check out this Land Acknowledgement written by the Grade 6 students at the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study Laboratory School.

Haley Higdon

Program Director

Haley Higdon is a guest on Turtle Island and is the Director for Natural Curiosity. She has her BEd and MA in Child Study and Education from the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study at UofT. She has spent the last three years working as the managing editor for the development and creation of Natural Curiosity 2nd Edition: The Importance of Indigenous Perspectives in Children’s Environmental Inquiry. Haley has extensive experience in supporting educators with incorporating environmental inquiry into their practice.

Brenda Simon

Interim Program Director

Brenda is a guest on Turtle Island and is the Interim Program Director for Natural Curiosity, Brenda has extensive experience in child advocacy, social justice and environmental planning. For the past 10 years, Brenda has been supporting educators to incorporate play, nature and the outdoors into life and learning in schools. Brenda has a deep appreciation for indigenous perspectives on education.

Describe a place in our natural world that you feel connected to.

For over 30 years, Brenda has been returning to a beloved place her family and friends call Overneath, a beautiful forest perched over O’Brien Lake in Lanark County and ‘neath the star-lit sky. Overneath is located in the traditional territories of the Alqonquin people.

Rosa Na

Program Coordinator

Rosa Na is a guest on Turtle Island and is the Program Coordinator for Natural Curiosity. She has an educational background in Environmental Science, Ecological Conservation, and Indigenous Studies at the University of Toronto, and experience working in solidarity with Indigenous communities around issues of environmental change and activism.

Describe a place in our natural world that you feel connected to.

The winding, uphill alleyway that leads to my childhood home in the countryside of Cheongju, Korea. We always took this way home because it was the brightest moonlit path in our village. I would skip, hop, and play with my shadow with my dad holding one hand and my mom holding the other. I remember the smell of the wind blowing from the surrounding mountains—she was always there. The feeling of home started at this alleyway. And nothing parallels the feeling of going home, feeling perfectly safe in the night.

Past and Present Work-Study Students

Work Study Students

Edward Larocque

Program Assistant

Edward Larocque is a guest on Turtle Island and currently completing his Master of Teaching at OISE.  He has worked as a science educator at the Ontario Science Centre for seven years delivering science workshops in French and English to school groups from across the GTA and Ontario.  He is also a dedicated musician and music teacher who sees endless connections between nature, science, and the arts. Edward is grateful and humbled to be working with the Natural Curiosity Project.

Describe a place in our natural world that you feel connected to.

The West coast of British Columbia will always hold a special place in my heart.  The combination of ocean, rocky mountains, and old forests is striking. There is always something to look at and take in, and one can’t help but feel connected to nature in a deeper way.

Kate Barrett

Program Assistant

Kate Barrett is a guest on Turtle Island and is a Teacher Candidate in the Master of Teaching program at OISE. She graduated from St. Francis Xavier University with an honours BA degree in Political Science and Development Studies. Kate has guided over 200 days of canoe trips. This past summer she led her second 50-day trip, paddling from Lake Superior to Algonquin Park. She has an ambition to share both her passion for the outdoors and environmental education with a new generation of children.

Describe a place in our natural world that you feel connected to.

I feel happiest in the Northern Ontario backcountry whether it be paddling the beautiful blue lakes, lying under the stars, walking through forests of pines, cedars and birch trees, or building a fire. In the woods of Northern Ontario, I feel at peace and connected with the natural world around me.

Adia Mojsiak

Program Assistant

Adia Mojsiak is guest on Turtle Island and is a Teacher Candidate in the Master of Teaching program (Junior/Intermediate division) at OISE. After graduating from York University with a Specialized Honours BA in Kinesiology and Health Sciences, she moved to British Columbia. While there, she was able to share her love and passion for the outdoors with students through her work as an Outdoor Educator at Strathcona Park Lodge, and as a ski instructor at Whistler Blackcomb. Adia loves spending time in nature and is always looking forward to her next adventure. She is thrilled to be joining such an amazing group of educators, and is excited to discover more about how her work with Natural Curiosity can inform her teaching practice. 

Describe a place in our natural world that you feel connected to.

Standing on top of a snow-covered mountain peak after a massive snowfall. My skis are on, my goggles are down and I am taking in the beautiful views. In my mind I know that in the next 30 seconds I’ll be living my life in the white room as I ski down the mountain. That’s my happy place.

Brandon Hewitt

Program Assistant

Brandon Hewitt is a guest on Turtle Island and enrolled in the Masters of Teaching programme at OISE/UT. After running her own mobile arts company in Vancouver – teaching dance, drama, and yoga in schools and child care centres – Brandon returned to Toronto to further her education. In the classroom, Brandon yokes together arts and sustainable environmental practices. Empathy and compassion are the cornerstones of her developing teaching philosophy, and Brandon is stoked to be a part of Natural Curiosity to deepen her own sensitivity. 

Describe a place in our natural world that you feel connected to.

Sitting around a campfire. This campfire can be anywhere, but ideally it burns outside the glow of city lights. I can stare at a campfire for hours, not speaking and just being. Sometimes I feel anxious about just being, concerned that the fire will tire of me. But it reminds me to just be still, present and breathe. This is why I love the fire.

Kanchana Madulaarachchi

Program Assistant

Kanchana Madulaarachchi is a Teacher Candidate in the Master of Teaching program at OISE. She has a Bachelor of Environmental Studies with a Minor in Biology from the University of Waterloo. Kanchana has a passion for outdoor environmental education. She has worked with numerous non-profit organizations and school boards to facilitate outdoor education programming with students and educators across Southern Ontario. Kanchana is excited to bring this experience to her role as a Program Assistant at Natural Curiosity.

Describe a place in our natural world that you feel connected to.

Visiting my childhood home in the tropics of Sri Lanka. Watching monkeys stealing jack fruit from the yard, spotting lizards scurry along the fences and hoping desperately not to come across a snake! All the while, reminiscing and making new memories with my extended family.

Haleigh Brody

Program Assistant

Haleigh is a teacher candidate in the Master of Teaching (primary/junior) program at OISE. In 2017, Haleigh came to Toronto from Montreal after graduating from Concordia University with a B.A in Child Studies to pursue her career as a teacher at OISE. Previously, she has worked as a preschool educator, ESL tutor, and boys and girls club mentor. In the classroom, Haleigh combines her passion for environmental education with a student-centered learning approach to foster confident and curious life-long learners. Haleigh is thrilled to be apart of Natural Curiosity in it’s aim to support children in becoming environmentally conscious and harmonious beings.

Describe a place in our natural world that you feel connected to.

Shredding down freshly snowed-over ski slopes in the Quebec Laurentians. Nothing beats the liberation of heading down a black diamond at 40 mph with a remarkable view of snow-peaked pine trees as far as the eye can see. The bitter feeling of the cold brisk air hitting my lips and cheeks. Ski boots locked, goggles on, headphones in. This is where you can find me at my most peaceful.

Sam Kilpatrick

Program Assistant

Samantha Kilpatrick is a guest on Turtle Island, and a master’s student with U of T’s Museum Studies Program, with a focus in visitor research, especially in measuring informal learning. She has previously worked with the Toronto Zoo to help evaluate and modify one of their play-based learning centres, has taught as a gallery educator for over three years, and is currently designing a Science HotSpot presentation with the Ontario Science Centre. Sam is excited to bring this background to the Natural Curiosity team, and to learn from all of them.

Describe a place in our natural world that you feel connected to.

The the other side of the dunes of Prince Edward Island, late in the summer on a sun and salt bleached deck. The smell of hot sand and dunegrass and drying salt and seaweed inescapable and warm around you. Overhead nothing but stars and enveloping dark, knowing that just inside is light and warmth and family and a game of cards, and the roar of the ocean out of sight but never out of mind.

Lauren Rzepecki

Program Assistant

Lauren Rzepecki is a guest on Turtle Island and is a teacher candidate in the Master’s of Child Study and Education (MA-CSE) program at OISE and the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study. She also has an undergraduate background in child development and has worked within child care settings. She has previously worked at an Outdoor Education Centre and has a passion for outdoor learning. Lauren is excited to work with the Natural Curiosity team and connect with other educators to support their environmental inquiries.

Describe a place in our natural world that you feel connected to.

Gazing at the sunset over Lake Huron from the pier that my grandfather built at my family cottage, listening to the sound of the waves come in. The feeling of sand under my feet and a cool breeze coming off of the water. Reminiscing on wonderful memories playing on the beach with my family as child. This is where I feel at home.

Amanda Santos

Past Project Coordinator & Program Assistant

Amanda Santos is a graduate of the Master of Arts in Child Study & Education program and is currently an elementary teacher with the Toronto District School Board. Amanda is supporting and championing a combined OPHEA, EcoSchool, and Outdoor Play and Learning (OPAL) initiative at her school named “Healthy Eco Pals” which aims to foster holistic health and well-being, and inspire deep relationships to Earth and one another.

Describe a place in our natural world that you feel connected to.

Standing atop the Serras de Aire e Candeeiros overlooking my father’s hometown of Porto de Mós, Portugal. My father spent most of his childhood roaming these hills, tending to the animals which sustained his family. My favourite thing to do is watch the snails (caracóis) that make their home in the grasses atop these hills, admiring how they find peace among the winds.

Colleen Cornett

Program Assistant

Colleen Cornett is a guest on Turtle Island and is a teacher candidate in the Master of Teaching (MT) program at OISE. She has an undergraduate degree in Biopharmaceutical sciences. Colleen has volunteered with Science Travels for three years, bringing hands on science programming to remote and Indigenous communities. Colleen is thrilled to be a part of the Natural Curiosity team supporting incorporating Inquiry, Environmental Education and Indigenous perspectives.

Describe a place in our natural world that you feel connected to.

Sitting on a sailboat in the middle of Lake Ontario, feeling the wind and waves spraying on my face. I have spent most of my life sailing competitively and have loved both the calm and the chaos that Lake Ontario can bring. The seasons change, the shoreline adapts and the constant current brings waves of nostalgia and excitement for the challenge ahead.

Mariah Martin

Program Assistant

Mariah Martin is a graduate of the MA Child Study and Education program at OISE. Her greatest passion is connecting with people, hearing their stories, and learning from their vibrant life experiences. She cares deeply about seeing children have positive learning experiences, which has led her to the classroom setting as a primary/junior teacher in Waterloo Region.

Describe a place in our natural world that you feel connected to.

Mariah grew up on a farm close to Waterloo, where she spent a lot of time playing outside with her three sisters. She feels most connected to nature when she revisits those places over the years, and experiences the beautiful changes of each season, again and again.

Anna Silverstein

Program Assistant

Anna is a teacher candidate in the Master of Arts in Child Study & Education program at OISE and the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study. Anna has worked with the p.i.n.e. Project in Toronto for the last three summers which cultivates resilience and connection to nature. Anna has also worked as an organic farmer in British Columbia.

Describe a place in our natural world that you feel connected to.

Sitting in a boat with my family along the Madawaska river gazing at the colourful lily pads in their various stages of openness. I spent the summers of my childhood along this river and I can feel the rich water as I’d trail my hand along the side of the boat as we moved slowly on.