The Council of Outdoor Educators of Ontario (COEO) is a non-profit, volunteer-based organization that promotes safe and high quality outdoor education experiences for people of all ages. It also acts as a professional body for outdoor educators in the province of Ontario. These aims are achieved through publishing Pathways: The Ontario Journal of Outdoor Education as well as an electronic newsletter, running an annual conference and regional workshops, maintaining this web site, and working with kindred organizations as well as government agencies.
COEO runs entirely on volunteer support and is managed by a Board of Directors. Please see below to meet the 2019-2020 Board of Directors.
President, Natalie Kemp
Natalie currently works as an outdoor educator for the District School Board of Niagara and runs the Jr. Naturalists’ Club at Royal Botanical Gardens. She was introduced to COEO as a teacher candidate in the Queen’s OEE program and found herself eager to get involved. Since then Natalie has served in a variety of roles on COEO’s Board of Directors over the last few years, and has acted as the conference chair for the last three fall conferences. When not at work Natalie likes to spend her time exploring new trails, paddling around Cootes Paradise marsh or North Pigeon Lake, or testing her green thumb. Natalie loves chances to build community and connect with likeminded educators; she is excited to find opportunities to bring outdoor educators together and to advocate for the importance of OE!
Past President, Liz Kirk
Liz currently works for Brock University as the Experiential Education Coordinator, Outdoor Recreation. In this role, she coordinates a year-round outdoor education program that serves students of the Niagara Catholic District School Board. This will be Liz’s fifth year on the COEO Board of Directors. Liz has contributed to initiatives such as OWLS, aimed at connecting and supporting young professionals entering the outdoor industry. Just for fun, Liz has completed both the Brent Run and MRX. She is looking forward to working alongside an amazingly talented and dedicated group of volunteers on the COEO BOD during the upcoming year!
Vice President, Karen O’Krafka
This will be Karen’s eighth year on COEO’s board of Directors. Karen has chaired past Make Peace with Winter conferences and helped organize our annual fall conference, in hopes of connecting Outdoor Educators with professional learning, inspiring connections, and adding an essential OE injection of fun. Karen has worked in Outdoor and Environmental Education for almost two decades, working and volunteering on both the west and east coast, as well as many incredible camps, outdoor education centres, schools and conservation authorities in between. She currently lives with her family in Peterborough, where she works to connect children with nature She is the co-founder of the just sprouted Hardwood Nature School. Karen is ever more aware of the importance of outdoor education, especially while chasing her wee ones through the woods and waters of the Kawarthas.
Bill Schoenhardt, Treasurer
Bill has one of the most unique teaching combinations in YRDSB: teaching an OEE program, co-coordinating King City SS’s grade 9 camp and being the Business Studies Department Head, teaching accounting, investments and general business courses. Bill graduated from the Queen’s OEE program a generation ago, then after a stint as a math and science teacher completed his MBA. Bill endeavors to have experiential components within all of his teaching, be it hiking the ORM or attending Loblaw Company Ltd shareholder meeting with his class and using chiji cards to debrief an accounting case study! Bill is pleased to be back on the board as treasurer after a short hiatus.
Hil Coburn, Secretary
Hil Coburn is excited to be working alongside this strong group of COEO leaders this year as the Secretary. When she was in OEE at Queen’s in 2011, she attended her first Fall Conference and officially fell in love with COEO. Over many summers spent canoe tripping and camp counselling at Camp Tanamakoon in Algonquin Park, Hil’s love of the outdoors grew strong. Working at Project Canoe, Outward Bound, ME to WE, and a couple seasons at the Outdoor Centre at Camp Wanakita continued to empower Hil to immerse her students in nature and community based programs. Two years of working with amazing students, staff and Elders at the Bronte Creek Project enforced Hil’s belief in the positive power of integrated outdoor education. She loved teaching and learning in Pelly Crossing, Yukon for two years; where her and her husband Arthur could be found cross country skiing, taking out trapping/canoeing field trips, and beading with community members. Hil is extremely committed to typing up solid notes for you this year, and moreover, committed to helping carry the torch that is now ignited in COEO; to support reconciliation with FNMI people and communities. She currently is teaching in Bluewater District School Board, loves settling into life on Georgian Bay and can’t wait for MPWW this January!!
Volunteer Coordinator, Aaron Parcher
Aaron attended his first COEO in 2013 and quickly found a great group of liked minded individuals. He is a graduate from the ADVL program at Laurentian University and has worked at Pine River Institute, Bark Lake Leadership Center and in Northern Saskatchewan. Aaron currently works as a teacher at Upper Canada College’s Norval Outdoor School, where he leads outdoor & experiential programming for students in K-12. He has been attending COEO conferences as both a participant & presenter for several years, then opted to get more involved by serving on the 2019 Fall Conference committee. Aaron is looking forward to Make Peace with Winter, and is excited to continue to work with fellow outdoor educators to support COEO as the volunteer coordinator.
Director-at-Large, Ben Blakey
Director-at-Large, Elizabeth Jankowski
Liz Jankowski is the Education Programs Officer in charge of camp and youth programs at Royal Botanical Gardens. She started out her career as a math and science teacher, but could not resist the call of wild and made the switch to outdoor education. Liz has previously worked in a variety of outdoor education settings, including Evergreen Brick Works, the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, and Norval Outdoor School; she has continues to look for ways to create innovative programming that provides children and youth with a sense of place, a connection to and appreciation for the land. Liz spends her free time exploring nature via canoe, adding birds to her life list, gardening and rock climbing. Liz is excited to be a member of the Board once again this year and seeks to connect outdoor educators of all backgrounds to share resources, spark new ideas, and grow in their experiences.
Director-at-Large, Barbara Sheridan
Barbara Sheridan is the founder and lead facilitator at Barrie Forest Kindergarten. She facilitates programs for toddlers and children from 1 to 7 in an Outdoor Playgroup and Forest Kindergarten Program. As well the school hosts teacher trainings, workshops and field trips. She is also a Podcast host where she discusses child directed play based outdoor learning with her co-host Kisha Reid. Barbara is also working on her thesis for her masters of education in sustainability, creativity and innovation. She is looking forward to her first year on the board with the wonderful initiatives that are taking place. In her spare time she is often found camping in and around Ontario and at Pow Wow’s with her children who are Annishinabe, and following several outdoor pursuits such as cycling, kayaking, canoeing, bush skills workshops at family programs throughout southern Ontario.
Director-at-Large, Danielle Barrett
Danielle Barrett works as a resource interpreter at Royal Botanical Gardens, where she spends spring & fall delivering educational programs to school groups from K-12 and is involved with developing programs based on the featured exhibit during the winter months. She is bilingual and loves being able to deliver programs in French. Danielle has been involved in interpretation for over 20 years, including work at Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Museum of Nature, and Dundurn National Historic Site. Danielle attended her first COEO conference in fall 2014 and is overjoyed to be serving her first year as a Director at Large. She is looking forward to sharing her passion about outdoor education with the COEO community and learning from other nature educators.
Membership Secretary, Minka Chambers
Minka Chambers is currently teaching a two credit integrated Outdoor Experiential Education program at a high school with the Simcoe County District School Board. She also teaches several Health & Physical Education classes, including a personal fitness with a focus on Yoga. She has been teaching with this board for 12 years, and gained much of her love for teaching from the Royal Canadian Air Cadet program, where she earned her glider instructor and private pilot’s licenses. Minka has earned several ORCKA canoe qualifications and hopes to continue to pass on her appreciation for the skill required to be a conscientious paddler and for nature itself through her teaching.