Colin Harris, Executive Director
I reside on the lands of Treaty 7 territory and I acknowledge the past, present and future generations of Stoney Nakoda, Blackfoot and Tsuut'ina Nations who help me steward this land.
Colin Harris has been immersed in the field of outdoor education for over a decade. He has been Director of Outdoor Education at YMCA Wanakita in Haliburton, Ontario. He has instructed canoe trips for Outward Bound Canada and has worked with First Nations students in the Western Arctic Leadership Program in NWT. He has taught physical education in Toronto and recently completed a Master’s of Environmental Education and Communication through Royal Roads University. He is the founder and Executive Director of Take Me Outside and initiated the organization by running across Canada, going into 80 schools across the country and engaging 20,000 students in the conversation of their time spent in front of screens compared to their time spent outside, being active and connecting to nature. Colin lives in Banff, Alberta where he enjoys trail running, writing and continuing to find ways to engage Canadian students in exploring this country's incredible backyard.
Farheen Kadwa, Coordinator
I reside on the traditional territories of the Wendat, the Haudenosaunee, and the Anishinaabe peoples, who have shared their land with me and continue to do so to this day. I am extremely grateful for their stewardship of and knowledge about this land, and am grateful to be able to live and learn on it.
Farheen was born and raised around the lush green forests and pristine beaches of Andaman Islands, India, where she naturally developed her love for and connection with the outdoors. After immigrating to Toronto with her family in 2005, her love for nature looked a little different, with new barriers of cold weather, densely populated and polluted neighbourhoods, being a visible minority, and living in a heavily urbanized area. Despite these challenges, over the years she has become a steward for the environment, student and teacher of nature, community leader and an advocate for social sustainability through her various community involvements and academic degrees including a recent Master of Environmental Science from University of Toronto. She also works with WWF Canada strengthening marine conservation initiatives to help decrease the impacts of shipping on our environment and wildlife. In her free time, Farheen helps run a not-for-profit organization Hijabi Ballers, which supports and celebrates Muslim women who play sports. Through her work at TMO, Farheen hopes to foster love and appreciation for the environment in educators and young learners, and show them that despite valid barriers to spending time outdoors, there's always ways to make our country's backyard an inviting and loving space for all.
Alyssa Stapleton, TMO Program Coordinator
I honor & celebrate the Tla’Amin & Pentalach whose territories I live, learn, and love in. I have the utmost gratitude and respect for the elders and knowledge holders who have taken their time to mentor me, ultimately deepening my connection to the natural world and all its rhythms. I further acknowledge and recognize the privilege I have in being in the outdoors and I am committed to making the outdoors a safe space where EVERYONE belongs.
Alyssa was drinking salt water from day one, growing up along the coast of rural British Columbia the ocean has played a key role in her development as a passionate outdoor educator. Alyssa has paddled extensively throughout BC's innumerable waterways and coastlines in addition to the waters of Central America and Southeast Asia. Wherever her travels take her, Alyssa always strives to weave a place-conscious experience for people that enables them to connect meaningfully to both the landscape as well as one another. Alyssa is a certified Level 3 Sea Kayak Guide and a Paddle Canada instructor for both sea kayaking and canoeing. She possesses a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies and Geography, as well as a post-degree diploma in the Restoration of Natural Systems. Currently, Alyssa is finishing up her Bachelor of Education and hopes to combine her passions of outdoor adventure and restoration with her love of teaching. Through her work with TMO Alyssa aspires to make the outdoors accessible to all learners in all places and stages of education.
Christie Thomson, Chair
I live in the present-day Treaty 7 region of Southern Alberta. My home is in the traditional territories of the Siksika, the Piikani, the Kainai, the Tsuut’ina, and the Iyarhe Nakoda nations. It is also part of the Métis Homeland. I take personal responsibility to understand our shared history and my personal role in reconciliation.
First and foremost Christie likes to laugh, learn and play outside with kids. She loves campfires, good stories, and believes that connecting with nature is fundamental for good health. Christie's career in outdoor/environmental education started when she worked as an Ontario camp counsellor roughly 15 years ago. Since then, she’s developed and delivered educational programs for Banff National Park, the Prairie Learning Centre, Friends of Jasper, and Massawippi Water Protection Association. Christie is a qualified teacher and recently explored how we can teach and learn for meaningful/spiritual relations with nature in her Master’s thesis.
I am grateful to reside in the treaty and tradtional territory of the the Michi Saagig Anishinaabeg.
Sheamus has worked as an educator for almost 20 years. After earning his Bachelor of Education with a specialization in Outdoor, Ecological, and Experiential education from Lakehead University, Sheamus spent years teaching and leading wilderness based expeditions, primarily with Outward Bound Canada. These experiences highlighted the power and potential of experiential learning in the natural world. Sheamus has spent the last 11 years as a high school teacher in the public education system in Ontario. Sheamus maintains a strong focus on interpersonal relationships, experiential learning, and providing opportunities to take learning outside of the classroom. His daily experience highlights the prevalence of technology in the lives of young people and the critical importance of providing opportunities for them to connect with the natural world. Sheamus enjoys sharing his passion for all things outdoors with his students, and most of all, with his two young daughters.
I reside on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the sngaytskstx tum-xula7xw (Sinixt), Syilx tmixʷ (Okanagan), Ktunaxa ɁamakɁis (Kootenay), and Secwepemcúl'ecw (Secwépemc or Shuswap) peoples, who have stewarded this land since time immemorial, despite ongoing forces of colonization and assimilation. As a settler on this land, I acknowledge my role within this system and my responsibility to contribute in dismantling these forces on both a structural and personal level.
Stephanie was born in Victoria, BC, and as the youngest of three children, she was following her older siblings into outdoor adventures from a young age, especially during summer camping trips up and down Vancouver Island. By grade two, she knew she’d be focused on nature and ecology throughout her life, but it wasn’t until university that she found an avenue for sharing that passion with others. From developing naturalist programs with Parks Canada to running a small conservation-focused organization to leading hands-on garden education at an urban farm, Stephanie continued exploring and learning on the coast of BC until a recent move eastward. She’s happy to be working alongside the TMO team as she finds a new community in the Kootenays to climb, bike, and hike with. Working in the nonprofit world specifically for the past four years has shown Stephanie that experiential education and grassroots organizations are a powerful combo for igniting change and inspiring stewardship, and she is constantly inspired by the work educators across Canada commit to engaging with the outdoors.
I reside on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the Coast Salish peoples–Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), Stó:lō and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) Nations, who have stewarded this land since time immemorial, despite ongoing forces of colonization and assimilation. As a settler on this land, I acknowledge my role within this system and my responsibility to contribute in dismantling these forces on both a structural and personal level.
Serena is a communications wiz, passionate about sustainability, youth engagement, outdoor-ed and all things nature. Her experiences in sustainability have shaped the strong belief that education has the power to not only enact meaningful change, but take powerful action - and she tends not to surround herself with those who agree otherwise. Following university, Serena worked as a professional communications consultant with FleishmanHillard Highroad, one of the world’s top ranked global PR agencies, where she developed a deep understanding of the strategies that succeed in engaging and connecting with communities. After getting a strong feel for life in corporate PR, Serena moved on to private consulting for various non-profits in and around BC including the C2C BC Education Network, eMotive, Recycle BC, Youth4Action and the BC Parks Foundation. She now specializes solely in community engagement with a focus on connecting local organizations to people, place & planet.
Originally from Queenston, Ontario, Carly spent much of her upbringing exploring the wonders of the Niagara Escarpment, “fishing” with sticks and leaves down by the docks, and searching for funky bugs on her way home from school. Now she’s living in Toronto, where she has helped further the mission of non-profits like Jane Goodall Institute, WWF-Canada, Nature Conservancy of Canada, EWB Canada, and the Ontario SPCA and Humane Society. Carly’s background is in communications, but at the heart of her experience is creative storytelling and a passion for engaging and empowering online communities. Carly spends most of her free time exploring the city’s trails with her curious, nose-to-the-ground beagle, Tucker.
I acknowledge the traditional and ancestral land of the Anishinaabe, Haudenosaunee, Huron-wendat (Wyandot) and Mississaugas of the New Credit territory in which I reside.
Natalie is a nature enthusiast that has worked in outdoor education for the past 12 years. A certified teacher, Natalie started her career as a Teacher running hands-on gardening and food sustainability programs at the Toronto Botanical Garden. From there she went on to work as Executive Director at the High Park Nature Centre where she led the OURSpace (Outdoor Urban Restoration Space) project which created a garden in High Park where the public could explore and learn about the native plants of the rare and endangered Black Oak Savannah. She is now a Senior Manager at the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority and oversees a variety of Community Learning and Education programs across York and Durham regions. Natalie has a young son and is passionate about supporting teachers as they search for ways to get kids outside as part of their learning! In her spare time Natalie and her family camp, mountain bike and explore their neighbourhood in Toronto, Ontario.
She, her, elle, Madame
Stéphanie lives on unceded Algonquin territory. Stéphanie habite sur le territoire algonquin non cédé.
Stéphanie Plante was born and raised in Tecumseh, Ontario and has an MA from the University of Windsor. She is a 2016 Arctic Fellow and a collaborator on a SSHRC study investigating the impact of digital technology on Indigenous communities. She has volunteered in the past with VDay Ottawa and is currently involved with the Refugee Assistance Project at the University of Ottawa and Take Me Outside. She is on the board of the St. George Housing Co-Op, is a proud member of Canadian Parents for French and Equal Voice. Her most important job is being a mother to Ian, 6-years-old and their dog Diego. She came to appreciate the outdoors much later in life and loves going to dog parks. She also enjoys podcasts, cooking, yoga and Beyoncé.
Stéphanie est originaire et a été élevée à Tecumseh en Ontario. Elle détient un master en sciences politiques de l’université de Windsor. Elle est amoureuse de la nature et fréquente souvent les parcs de chien. Elle a été chercheuse associée au 2016 Arctic Summer College et participe à une étude menée au sein du Conseil de recherches en sciences humaines, examinant l’impact des technologies pour améliorer l’accès au vote dans les peuples indigènes. Elle a auparavant été bénévole pour VDay Ottawa et est actuellement très impliquée dans le projet d’assistance pour les réfugiés à l’Université d’Ottawa. Elle travaille aussi à la Coopérative d’habitation Saint-Georges, et est une mère fière de son fils de 6 ans Ian. Elle apprécie les baladosdiffusions, la cuisine, le yoga et Beyoncé.
Kate Porter is a teacher and vice principal in Southeastern British Columbia on the homeland of the Ktunaxa ɁamakɁis people. She has a Master's degree in Education (Administration and Leadership), a Bachelor of Education (K-12 Physical Education and Science), and a Bachelor of Science (Kinesiology). She has also instructed and supervised with the local teacher education program. As a former guide, international trip leader, and camp director, outdoor education has been immersed in her career, education, and teaching style. Although she formerly taught elaborate secondary outdoor education programs, in recent years she has been teaching at the elementary and middle years levels: going outdoors has remained a common practice in every subject and grade she teaches. When she isn't teaching, Kate can usually be found on the water paddle boarding, canoeing, swimming, scuba diving, or kayaking. When she is extra ambitious, she loves to bike, hike, and camp with her family!
I want to acknowledge the lands of the Niitsítpiis-stahkoii ᖹᐟᒧᐧᐨᑯᐧ ᓴᐦᖾᐟ (Blackfoot) Nation where I currently reside. I want to honour their traditional Siksiká language and recognize without the commitment the Blackfoot has to these lands, I would not have the outdoor beauty to explore and create memories with my family where I can practice mindfulness and find peace. Nitsíniiyi’taki
Elisabeth holds a doctorate in clinical psychology and is the National Director of Mental Health Services for CBI Health Group. She champions ways to build resilience and provide mental health services for individuals across the lifespan. She has worked extensively with individuals with injuries and pain and saw firsthand the power of being in nature as a way to increase physical and psychological function. She is passionate about TMO supporting mental health and building resilience of today’s students through outdoor exploration, where they can challenge themselves both mentally and physically. She lives in Calgary, but travels any chance she gets. She is married and has a three-year-old son, Magnus as well as a fur baby Viggo. Both boys are water babies, just like Mom.
Bridget Wayland joined the Board of Directors in January 2019 and serves on the TMO Communications Committee. Bridget holds a Master’s degree in creative writing and a Bachelor’s degree in English literature. She was a magazine editor for many years, then transitioned to digital communications at McGill University and the Trans Canada Trail (now known as the Great Trail). Bridget currently leads the communications and marketing arm of ALUS Canada, an environmental charitable organization, as Director of Communications. She is based on a few acres in southern Quebec, on the traditional land of the Abenaki (part of the Wabanaki Confederacy), where she likes to take her kids cross-country skiing, wild swimming (lakes and rivers) and rambling through the woods with their Berner, Violet.