Finding our 'Place': Fostering Deep Connections to Land Through Outdoor Education

What are we as Outdoor and Experiential Educators doing to connect children and youth to the land? Are we creating a successful environment for youth and children to engage with the culture, history and ecology of a place? How do we encourage individuals to move from a shallow understanding of space to a deep, personal and holistic understanding of place? What activities and techniques are we using to inspire and evoke an understanding of and connection to place?

This year's conference theme, Finding our 'Place': Fostering deep connections to land through Outdoor Education, encourages practitioners to share stories of places and spaces that have inspired deep connections to the land. This conference will provide an opportunity to share best practices around place-based education and explore new ideas and perspectives about connecting children and youth to natural places.

Download a copy of the OFFICIAL CONFERENCE PROGRAM here.


Bark Lake Leadership Centre is a year round leadership and outdoor education facility. Each year Bark Lake welcomes thousands of students from across Ontario and around the world. Students and teachers participate in a wide range of camp and leadership activities including campfires, canoeing, and challenge courses.

Bark Lake Leadership Centre began as the Ontario Camp Leadership facility at Bark Lake in 1948. It has been a forerunner in Outdoor Education and Leadership experiences in North America since that time, for staff and students, corporate leaders and organizational groups. The centre is passionate about making leaders, building character, nature and adventure based experiences, and creating an environment for excellence in group interaction in this beautiful, wild place!




*From Toronto, Mississauga & the west

Take Highway 400 north to Hwy 11. Follow Hwy 11 to 2nd Orillia ext 131A, Hwy 12south. Follow Hwy 12 to the turn off for RR 44 (Rama Rd.) Follow 44 (Rama Rd.) to RR 45.

*From Toronto & the Oshawa area

Take Highway 35 north via Lindsay to RR 121 junction just south of Fenelon Falls. Follow RR 121 north to RR 45/County Rd. 503 Kinmount.

*From North Bay & the north

Take Highway 60 just north of Huntsville to Highway 35.  Follow Highway35 south to Kinmount

*From Kingston area

Take Highway 401 West to Hwy 62 at Belleville. Take Hwy 62 North via Madoc to Bancroft, then Hwy 28 west Paudash. Take Hwy to County Rd. 503 at Tory Hill.

*From Ottawa area

Take Hwy 17 to Hwy 60 west. Take Hwy 60 to Renfrew. From Renfrew, take Hwys 132 and 41 to Hwy 28 at Denbigh. Take Hwy 28 west thru Bancroft to Paudash. Take Hwy 118 West to County Rd. 503 at Tory Hill.



Accommodations will be in shared camp cabins at Bark Lake.  Facilities include flush toilets and hot showers.  Please bring a sleeping bag, pillow, towel and flashlight.  Tent camping is available on the Bark Lake property (same cost applies).  Please inform us of any special accommodation needs on your registration form.


The Bark Lake Kitchen will be providing delicious and nutritious meals for the conference.  Please outline any dietary needs clearly on your registration form.  Coffee, tea, juice and water will be provided at all times in the dining hall.  Other snacks will be provided at times indicated.  BYOWB! – Bring Your Own Water Bottle. ***Please note, alcohol is permitted on the Bark Lake property (BYOB), but no glass beer bottles – cans only please.


Start slapping your knees and stomping your feet! On Saturday night, the lively trio of "Roz, Tess, and Kim" (an off-shoot of The Living Daylight Stringband, a five-piece old time band based in Toronto, Canada) will have us flying around the dance floor. With a fiddle, a banjo, and a guitar, their sound is at times "full-bodied and muscular, knocking out raucous tunes and, at times, a delicate sketch - an etch - of a tune, all the while singing long-life songs with rich vocal harmonies." The band plays to find each other in the music, to share and to celebrate the rhythms and melodies of this rich folk tradition!  This year’s dance theme will be (wait for it…) come dressed-up as your favourite butterfly or moth! That’s right, real or fictional and any larval stage thereof—Lady, Sulphur or Swallowtail; Luna, Hawk or Looper; The regal Monarch or its mimic the Viceroy; Mothra, the Hungry Caterpiller, Papillon, Arthur the Moth, Oscar the Grouch’s friend, Slimey the Worm (actually a caterpillar!). So many ideas, so many potential costumes!!!


Now an annual conference tradition, we are again having both a Silent Auction and a Live Auction and we will need your help. We are looking for a variety of items to be donated by you or your affiliated organization. We hope to have about 30 items in the silent auction and about 5 big-ticket items in the live auction. We are open to welcoming whatever you have to offer. Past auctions have included donations of: gift certificates, books, organization-related clothing, camping gear, gift baskets, artwork, handmade crafts, etc. Please contact Erin Farrow at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it if you have any potential items you wish to donate. All proceeds from the auctions will go towards future COEO initiatives. The auctions will take place just after dinner on Saturday evening.


Our annual conference is also the time for us to recognize and celebrate the efforts and achievements of COEO members and other outdoor educators throughout the province.  Join us after dinner on Saturday evening as we acknowledge the recipients of this year’s annual COEO awards.  Please consider nominating a deserving colleague or organization -- visit our Recognition page to read about our five major awards.  A nomination form can be downloaded by clicking here or from the bottom of that page.


Each year the COEO Board of Directors sets aside funds for individuals who require financial assistance in order to attend our annual conference.  This year, COEO Alumni have also stepped forward and contributed funds specifically for young professionals who require financial assistance to attend the conference.  Those wishing to apply for conference bursary must submit a letter to COEO Past President, Kyle Clarke - This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it with the requested amount and a rationale by September 5, 2014.  You will be informed by September 10, 2014 to whether or not you have received funding.


Individuals and companies that would like to market programs, services or products at the 2014 COEO Conference will be able to do so in the Exhibitor Showcase located inside the Bark Lake dining hall. Members of COEO may reserve exhibit space at no extra cost. Exhibit space is limited; contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it to reserve your spot and avoid missing out on this great communication/promotional opportunity.


As always, the COEO Conference Committee encourages carpooling when possible and will help facilitate this by organizing a list of drivers with available space in September. Please contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it if you require a ride or are willing to offer a ride to someone else.


Grant Linney, Retired COEO Member, worked at the Ontario Camp Leadership Centre (now the Bark Lake Leadership Centre) for 13 summers as a Resource Councillor and Program Director. This was during its heyday years when Bark Lake was run by the Ontario government and open to any youth who was a graduate of grade 10, a resident of Ontario, and sponsored by a youth-serving agency (e.g., summer camps, 4-H, Junior Farmers, Scouts & Guides, high school outdoor clubs). Through this special audio-visual presentation (and walk down memory lane), come learn how "People, Program and Place" made Bark Lake one of the most powerful and transformative programs to ever grace the Ontario OEE scene, and find out what learnings this amazing experience has to offer modern day OEE.


The Back to Nature Network, in partnership with COEO, is offering a free pre-conference workshop on September 19th to certify outdoor and environmental educators to lead short, hands-on workshops for teachers based on the Into Nature guide.

What is Into Nature?

In 2012 Ontario's Back to Nature Network worked in partnership with the Halton District School Board, Royal Botanical Gardens and Ontario EcoSchools to create a guide to engage teachers in getting children outdoors as part of their day to day learning. Into Nature is available online as a free download in English and French at It is a step-by-step guide designed to help any elementary level teacher teach any subject outdoors using the schoolyard or neighbourhood parks. Teacher-developed and teacher-tested lessons and activities range from Nature2Go activities that take less than 30 minutes, to full lesson plans for P, J and I students.

Why train trainers?

Recognizing that the teaching world is crowded with resources, we want to make it easy for teachers to use the guide. We are looking for educators who will take a free one-day, hands-on pilot workshop and agree to share the guide and introduce its activities in short (e.g. after school) introductory workshops for teachers in their Board or region.

The train-the-trainers program will involve a mixture of classroom and outdoor sessions running from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, September 19th at Bark Lake. It is supported by the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

For further information or to register....

Contact Bill Kilburn at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ; 905 527 1158 x590 (1 800 694 4769 x590) before September 10 – the workshop is limited to the first 30 registrants from across the province. Registration is free of charge and includes lunch. Trainers will also receive a print copy of Into Nature.


Attending the COEO Conference? Well then, COEO Member Barrie Martin would like to extend an invitation to come early to participate in the 12th Annual Hike Haliburton Festival, Canada's largest hiking event. This three day festival attracts over 1500 people to participate in 60 guided hikes, concerts, BBQs, workshops, and contests. There are hikes for all ages and abilities varying in length and level of difficulty. We hope you can join us for the Blast Off BBQ on Thursday, September 18th and participate in one or two of fourteen hikes we have scheduled for Friday before registering for the conference. The hikes are free (donations are welcome).

Accommodation for Thursday night is available at Bark Lake. Call Maria or Karen at (888) 517-9999 or (705) 447-2447 to reserve a room. There are also many other places to stay in the Highlands -

For more information on the Festival see or call 1-800-461-7677 or 705-286-1777. Pre-registration is recommended


Regular and Organizational Members   $235

Student and Retiree Members             $215

Registration can be done online or by mail.  Download a copy of the 2014 COEO Conference registration form by clicking here or register online and use PayPal to make payment using your PayPal account or credit card.

*Membership: Registrants for the 2014 COEO Conference must hold a current COEO membership.  Membership fees maybe included with registration.

ATTENTION: Organizational Members.  Unfortunately our online registration system is unable to process multiple registrants under one membership.  An organizational membership may be purchased online along with the conference fee for one attendee, however the subsequent second or third or fouth individual attending under an organizational membership must register by mail.  Alternatively, your organizational membership and multiple conference registrations can all be made by post -- download a copy of the 2014 COEO Conference registration form here.


Hey College and University Students!!!

Are you planning to attend the Annual Fall Conference as part of group of six or more? Student Group discounts are available.  Contact COEO Past President, Kyle Clarke at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it for more details.

Have you seen this year's OFFICIAL FALL CONFERENCE POSTER yet? (see below) Download a copy for your very own, print and display it with pride in your centre, school, camp, store, park, staffroom, office or outhouse!