International Women’s Day 2023

#EmbraceEquity: The female identifying folks that are involved with Take Me Outside!

Take Me Outside relies on the support and work of many individuals in order to accomplish each of our staple initiatives and to grow our offerings each and every year. We are very fortunate to have so much support encompassing our organization. March is Women’s History Month and Wednesday this week is International Women’s Day. As such, we wanted to take a moment to acknowledge, celebrate, and honour some of the female identifying staff, board members, and committee members whose passion and dedication are two of the reasons Take Me Outside is where it is today. We recognize as an organization that gender equity is an on-going process and that certain outdoor environments still reinforce gender bias. We hope you find some inspiration and hope in the words below from our Women’s Day contributors.

Meet Jade Berrill 

Jade is one of the key players in planning our 2023 Outdoor Learning Conference. Additionally, she works as an outdoor educator, guide and instructor. Jade’s childhood memories include moments spent in nature as well as being mentored outside by inspirational women. These foundational childhood experiences in addition to Jade’s BSc in Physical Geography “really solidified her love for the outdoors, ecological knowledge and the importance of our connection to nature – not as a separate entity, but a part of it”.  Jade shared a bit more about this connection and the work she does today to inspire equity in the outdoor industry. 

“The outdoors have been my sanctuary, from early days of helping to de-weed the cracks in the patio with an old butter knife, to leading youth to their first mountainous summit in my now permanent home in Canada. I know through my studies and now work, that access to the outdoors, nature experiences, encouragement and opportunity to lead or be independent is not a right that all female identifying people get.

In my work I try to connect my students to the concepts that despite our seeming success as a species that equity is not available to all, but that it should be, and that the outdoors – wherever you are – can be an equitable space and a place of wellbeing and connection for all people.

I try to encourage my students to learn about and care about any groups who face discrimination or barriers to participating in outdoor activities or simply spending time in nature spaces and imagine what that must feel like. I work with them to develop empathy and a sense of social justice.” 

Meet Charlotte de Souza 

Charlotte has served TMO on both the Teacher Advisory Committee as well as the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee since they both were founded two years ago. She always brings so much compassion and fire to the work she does and she inspires many great ideas for not only TMO but nature-based learning at large. It is a true joy to work with this inspiring woman! When asked to consider her work with TMO, the outdoors and its intersection with her identity, Charlotte wrote the following:

“Hello, my name is Charlotte de Souza. I am a settler on Turtle Island and moved here in 2008 from Trinidad and Tobago. From a young age I was encouraged by my parents to spend as much time as I could, playing outside. We found friends in the sea, trees, fruits and animals that lived among us. I am so grateful for these foundational experiences which imprinted on me to a large degree and began my relationship with the living world. I am so thankful to be a part of TMO’s DEI committee. I have an opportunity to conference with a wonderful team of women about concepts of privilege which affect access to, and experiences with the natural world. As an educator and nature lover, I believe that ecological stewardship is essential in fostering love for and preservation of wild and naturalized spaces. Access to safe green spaces and wild areas is not a reality for all Canadians and is intertwined within systems of structural oppression. I am inspired by organizations such as TMO and the work of young people as they continue to demand fair treatment of the natural world and all the living things that depend on its health and success.”

Meet Kate Porter

Kate is a phenomenal TMO Board member who leads a life full of fostering nature connection between a diverse array of age groups throughout her working life. She is someone who finds empowerment through time outdoors and models equity in her nature-based teaching practices. Below, Kate shares a bit about herself and how she sees nature to be a central theme in her career.

“Kate Porter has been on the Take Me Outside BOD since 2018. She’s a former guide and outdoor education teacher and is now an elementary school Vice Principal and Grade 6 teacher. A theme throughout her career is taking students outside in the pursuit of lifelong learning and health. Accessing outdoor spaces frequently throughout childhood can nurture empowerment to explore our natural world.”

Meet Natalie Harder

Natalie is one of TMO’s phenomenal board members who has contributed her time and energy to help us diversify our funding streams. Natalie has also helped with grant finding and grant applications as well as with the general day to day things that come up in the small non-profit world. When reflecting on her personal experiences in the outdoor education world and its intersection with her lived experienced as a woman in outdoor learning, Natalie wrote:

“The outdoor education community has been one of the most welcoming and open group of people I have had opportunity to work with. I was embraced for the skills and knowledge I brought while encouraged to continually learn, grow and challenge assumptions!  As a woman working in a leadership role, it is my role to continue fostering this as we continue to grow and diversify as a community.” 

Meet Stephanie Korolyk

Stephanie plays a critical role in Take Me Outside. If you’ve attended any of our in-person or virtual workshop events, chances are you have seen Steph in action. She’s got contagious enthusiasm and a true spirit for creating community. Steph is also the only full-time TMO employee and has the role of program coordinator. When asked to reflect on her own experiences in outdoor learning and her work with TMO as it relates to embracing equity, Stephanie wrote:

“Within the fabric of the outdoor learning community, I’m able to forge so many unique connections, and I feel lucky to collaborate with countless inspiring women every day. In my own day-to-day work, I may be connecting people to resources, events, workshops, and other physical manifestations of the organization, but it’s through this work that I get a sense of a larger tapestry being created in the process. 

In many parts of the world, women have traditionally been the ones weaving and working with textiles. And now I see us working in the same way within this field. We’re weaving together an understanding of place, striving for a sense of belonging for ourselves and those around us in connection to the land. I hope that within this, we create the space for all to arrive with their story and add it to the fabric. The ways in which we form and maintain relationships with the land look different for each of us, and I’m grateful to include the process of learning from one another as part of my daily life at Take Me Outside.”

Meet Elisabeth Saxton

Elisabeth is another one of TMO’s phenomenal board members whose passion revolves around the positive impact of time spent in nature in increasing physical and psychological function. In addition to being on the TMO board where she contributes many ideas and volunteer hours, she is also the National Director of Mental Health Services for CBI Health Group. Her advocacy for vitamin O (outdoors) and its role in developing resiliency from a young age is a huge asset to the work TMO does. Elisabeth reflected on the natural world in relation to embracing equity as a woman in a national leadership position and shared the following:

“In my career I tried initially to make my gender irrelevant, and I remember exactly the moment I realized that notion was a delusion. I was furious and frustrated at first, then I decided to embrace how being a woman has impacted my perspective, and used what I learned through my experiences. In nature there is male, female, both, and fluid. We appreciate them all equally for what they contribute to the ecosystem. Society could learn a lot from exploring what nature has to teach us, embracing equity is just one example.”

Meet Stéphanie Plante

Yet another phenomenal TMO board member – Stéphanie! Stéphanie is such an incredible resource to TMO in addition to inspiring so many great ideas at our monthly board meetings. She has also spent countless hours providing French translation services to some of the most critical TMO content. Stéphanie has a huge degree of gratitude for the natural world and through her role as a female leader in municipal politics she does this through advocacy and action. When asked to reflect on the importance of wildlife and biodiversity, she wrote:

“People everywhere rely on wildlife and biodiversity-based resources to meet all our needs, from food, to fuel, medicines, housing, and clothing. Millions of people rely on nature as the source of their livelihoods and economic opportunities. But more than our needs, nature has proven to be essential for our mental health too. 

Partout dans le monde, des populations dépendent des espèces de faune et de flore sauvages et des ressources naturelles pour répondre à leurs besoins en nourriture, carburant, logement, médicaments ou vêtements. La biodiversité offre à des millions de personnes des moyens d’existence et des opportunités économiques. Et par-delà la simple satisfaction des besoins humains, la nature se révèle aussi essentielle à la bonne santé mentale. Autant de raisons de lui rendre hommage.”

Meet Alyssa Stapleton

Alyssa is a board member, a DEI Committee member, and the communications coordinator for TMO. She is also a K-12 online learning teacher in her spare time. As someone who believes in creating a more equitable outdoor learning landscape she contributes much of her time to considering how she might be better ally in this realm and use her privilege to improve access for those who might not feel welcome in the OL context. When considering International Women’s Day and its intersection with outdoor learning, Alyssa writes:

“Whenever I see, meet, or hear about other female identifying folks dedicating their time and energy to land-based learning, outdoor guiding, or environmental education I immediately get the sense of a kindred spirit and my heart wells with joy. Being female in an industry that traditionally was not very welcoming to female leadership is a big deal. Working in collaboration with other women to take up space in this realm and to show younger generations that women play a critical role in the outdoor industry at large keeps the fire glowing illuminating not only those who came before us, but lighting the way for those yet to come.” 

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