Our Team

Tkaronto

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.

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.

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

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.