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 2018-2019 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 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!
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 18 years, and has also helped to organize conferences. Deborah currently lives with her family in Wiarton, ON, atop the Niagara Escarpment. She manages the Bluewater Outdoor Education Centre, and enjoys skiing, snowshoeing, canoe tripping, gardening, and operating a seasonal café in Wiarton. Deb hopes to continue working on COEO projects, such as fundraising for the Bursary, nurturing COEO’s steps towards reconciliation with FNMI communities, and coordinating the awards ceremony for the fall 2019 conference!
Vice President, Natalie Kemp
Natalie was introduced to COEO while completing her Bachelors of Education through the Queen’s University OEE program and is excited to return for a third year on the COEO Board of Directors. She currently works as an outdoor educator for the District School Board of Niagara and runs the Jr. Naturalists’ Club at Royal Botanical Gardens. Natalie loves opportunities to build community and make connections, so she hopes to continue to contribute to the organization of conferences and is excited to be part of bringing outdoor educators together through COEO.
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, 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!
Director-at-Large, 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 4th year on the Board as secretary, and has previously worked on the editorial board of COEO’s Pathways journal. 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 2018/19 year as a COEO member.
Director-at-Large, Karen O’Krafka
This will be Karen’s seventh 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, 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 third 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.
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.