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 2017-2018 Board of Directors.
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 fourth 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!
Past President, Deborah Diebel
Deborah is excited for the coming year as COEO’s Past President. Deborah has served in various roles on the COEO Board of Directors for many of the past 15 years, and has also helped to organize conferences. Deborah currently lives in Wiarton, ON, atop the Niagara Escarpment. She manages the Bluewater Outdoor Education Centre, and enjoys skiing, snowshoeing, canoe tripping, curling, gardening, and volunteering. Deb hopes to continue working on COEO projects, such as the Constitution updates, fundraising for the Bursary, and nurturing COEO’s steps towards reconciliation with FNMI communities.
Vice President, Emma Brandy
Emma is looking forward to stepping into her new role as Vice President, after serving for 2 years as Director at Large. Emma holds a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology from McMaster University as well as Masters in Outdoor Education from the University of Edinburgh. After her studies (and adventuring) in Scotland, Emma returned to Ontario to find COEO and the inspiring work being done on their behalf. Since then, Emma’s work has been varied but has mainly focused on outdoor and environmental education, land-based practices and activities, restorative farming and design. Emma hopes to help COEO make connections to outdoor educational opportunities not currently being accessed, reach out to the membership to understand how COEO can serve them better, and continue making COEO events successful, inclusive and deeply satisfying educational experiences for both new and seasoned members.
Treasurer, Natalie Kemp
Natalie got her start in outdoor education working for the summer camp at Royal Botanical Gardens when she was sixteen years old, and was introduced to COEO while completing her BEd through the Queen’s OEE program in 2014. Natalie is currently working as a supply teacher at Norval Outdoor School, as well as a nature interpreter and leader of the Junior Naturalist program at Royal Botanical Gardens. She loves programs where she can be part of a community and create opportunities for interdisciplinary learning, as well as have fun with kids in nature. Natalie loves meeting new people—connecting to them by sharing stories and knowledge. She is excited to be a part of bringing outdoor educators together through COEO.
Secretary, Ben Blakey
Ben Blakey works as a teacher/researcher specializing in outdoor education for Montcrest School, a K-8 independent school in Toronto. His teaching role includes working alongside staff to get classes outside, help with outdoor programming, and bringing in outdoor educational ideas, while his research interests include summer camps, ecopsychology, exercise neuroscience, and integrating ‘contact with nature’ at various levels of the education system. Ben is serving his 3rd year on the Board as secretary, and has worked on the editorial board of COEO’sPathways journal for the previous 4 years. He’s excited to be once again learning and sharing with the rest of the incredible people on the Board of Directors, and looking forward to an exciting 2017/18 year as a COEO member.
Volunteer Coordinator, Karen O’Krafka
Karen is excited to continue in the role of Volunteer Coordinator, helping match our wonderfully talented membership with bountiful volunteer opportunities. This will be Karen’s sixth 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 a 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.
Director-at-Large, Jamie Innes
Jamie has spent the last 16 years dabbling in the outdoor field. He has worked in residential outdoor centres, as a raft guide on the Ottawa River and with outward bound. He has instructed at Algonquin College and lectured for Brock University. His formal education includes an undergrad in outdoor adventure leadership from Laurentian university and a master’s of environmental communication and education through royal roads university.
Currently he enjoys working part-time. He is a part-time paramedic with Toronto EMS, a part-time outdoor education field technician for Fleming College, a part-time Wilderness First Aid instructor for Wilderness Medical Associates, a part-time freelance outdoor educator and a part-time owner of Whitewater Brewing Company. His first first COEO conference was nearly 10 years ago during which he realized the importance of the organization. He is eager to promote outdoor and environmental education through COEO.
Director-at-Large, Elizabeth Jankowski
Liz Jankowski started her career in education at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ongario. She always had an environmental education focus, but it was during her alternative practicum at Little Cataraqui Creek Conservation Area that she fell in love with outdoor education. After teaching in a classroom setting, Liz made the switch to outdoor education, working first at the Evergreen Brick Works in Toronto, and then as an educator with the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA). While part of the TRCA’s education team, she facilitated programming at field centres, summer camps, and in schools throughout the GTA as part of their mobile education program. Now, as a teacher at Norval Outdoor School in Georgetown, she looks for ways to create innovative programming that provides students with a sense of place, a connection to and appreciation for the land. This is Liz’s second year on the COEO Board of Directors, and she hopes to spread appreciation of the organization through social media and outreach initiatives. She 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, Andy Halse
Andy is a past presenter for the MPWW conference and new to the board at COEO. She holds a diploma from Algonquin College in Recreation and Leisure studies, as well as a diploma in Culinary Management from George Brown College. Andy has worked in the Outdoor Education Industry for the past 15 years as a Camp Counsellor, Canoe Tripper, Rock-Climbing Instructor, Camp Director and most recently as the Toronto Program Manager for Outward Bound Canada. She is excited to join the board and is looking forward to participating in more COEO events!
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.