Kendra Martin Coyote - Director/Founder - B.P.E., B.Ed., M.Ed., Spec Ed (P2)
My enthusiasm for the outdoors started early with my dad's mandatory 'hate walks' every weekend tagging along five young kids. I cherish the memory of those family walks! In those early years we moved from town to a small farm where a free naughty pony was part of the sales deal. Horses became my life, then dogs, goats, rabbits, and all living things - including a few dead ones. We had old school bell mounted outside our old mill house to coax me in from the the fields and woodlots around the tiny hamlet. Wild spaces always called me back.
Teaching became my passion and I began work in special education crafting alternative programs to help children access all possible opportunities for learning and fun at school. Looking for a more vibrant and wholistic school experience for my students, I took the learning outdoors. The children blossomed, returning years later to share strong memories of our outdoor adventures. When retirement approached it was time to pursue my personal dream of creating a nature school with a vision to bring children into a loving relationship with the natural world. I am so proud of this team, especially their dedication to helping children build a strong ecological identity.
Denise Iszczuk Dragonfly - Nature Mentor Staff
My journey with nature and the outdoors began on a small hobby farm on the Niagara Escarpment. I love exploring the connections from the water in the creek of my backyard to frogs in the culvert to the weathered rock of the escarpment to the seasonal movement of deer across the land.
As a graduate from McMaster with a Bachelor of Science, I have excelled as an educator of watershed science at three different conservation authorities over the last twenty years delivering school programs, running day camps and organizing special events. I also believe in giving back to the community through volunteering. I am currently a 4-H Leader, President of the Ontario Society for Environmental Education and Membership Coordinator with the Friends of Ellice and Gadshill Swamps. Some of my favourite things include growing and preserving food; traveling great distances via bicycle and snowmobile and photography. Coyote Nature School is a new and exciting way of teaching outside and I am grateful to Coyote and her students for letting me be a part of the pack.
Tammy Chapman Tamarack - Nature Mentor Volunteer - B.A., DSW
The best part of my childhood was spent outside. Living in a rural area the possibilities were endless. My favourites were willow trees and sand piles, exploring in the woods, walking through a culvert at the creek, ice ponds, mud puddles. All explored safely with brothers, neighbours or alone on a 3 acre property which seemed vast as a child. Nature equalled home.
So, when Coyote came asking for clay (pottery a previous profession) to be used at Nature School and an invitation to come see what it was all about, I felt like I was being called home. Having recently “retired” from a multitude of careers involving caregiving, teaching, culinary and artisanal adventures, I was looking for a volunteer opportunity. After one semester I find myself looking for tracks, orienting direction, identifying more trees, singing new songs, inspired by the students and teachers, excited to learn and share.
Gord Barnett Raccoon - Photographer/Videographer Volunteer
I was born and raised on a farm several kms down the road from Stoneridge Farm, one of the home bases of the Coyote Nature School so it is a bit of a homecoming after a 44 year career as a News cameraman/field producer with CTV in Saskatchewan. After retiring and moving back to St Marys I was looking for an activity that allowed me to spend time outdoors and to take photos so when I learned about the Coyote Nature School I volunteered to help. My wife had been a Grade 1 teacher for most of her 30 year career so I appreciated the opportunity to be involved in an educational environment again.
While I do get some posed photos, my favourite are the candid photos when the children are focused on a particular project or those light bulb moments when a student realized that they had mastered a skill, caught a crayfish or solved a clue on a scavenger hunt. I want to capture those moments that make parents appreciate the amazing experience their child is having.
Gail Courtnage Chickadee - Nature Mentor Volunteer - B.Ed., BSW, MSW
After working with children and youth for over 25 years I am so happy to have found anopportunity to help out with Coyote Nature School. In my social work career I was lucky to combine my two passions, working with children/youth and my love of animals through animal-assisted therapy. Upon retirement in Edmonton and moving to St. Marys to be close to my husband’s family, I knew I wanted to continue helping out with kids and animals. Coyote Nature School has given me this special opportunity!
Kim Wagner Daisy - Nature Mentor Volunteer - B.A., B.Ed., OCT
Coyote Nature School is the highlight of my week! As a newly retired AMDSB elementary teacher, I enjoy the opportunities to listen and support kids as they muck about doing chores, discover stream life and tackle forest experiences.
Born in Winnipeg, then growing up in Guelph Ontario, my father instilled an early appreciation of an individual's responsibility to look after the environment. Often there would be car trips to research lakes, rivers and streams. After completing my education at University of Guelph and York, my husband and I began our family in Stratford. Today we value time together supporting the nature program at Camp Hermosa on Lake Huron.
Lorna Anderson Oak - Farm Volunteer - B.A., M.A., Reg. Psychotherapist
You may spot me around the farm hanging out with the horses and mucking stalls. This is my happy place! I have been volunteering at Stoneridge since late 2018 and enjoy all manner of animal-care related adventures. Gus is my special guy at the farm, a huge black draft horse who is happily living his retired life. When not caring for the equine team, I enjoy trail running with my Siberian husky, paddling a canoe, playing piano, practicing yoga, making silver jewellery, reading, and working as a registered psychotherapist to support adolescents, young adults, and couples.
Lisa Stewart Osprey - Nature Mentor Staff
My relationship with nature began in the Australian bush. I spent a lot of my younger years bushwalking up mountains with my Dad, going on multi-day horseback treks, volunteering in equine-assisted therapy, camping and working on a cotton farm. In Australia I needed to be familiar with the plants, animals and weather around me as a lot of it can be quite dangerous!
On arriving in Canada 8 years ago I immediately fell in love with the outdoors here. As it has become familiar my bond with nature here has grown, but those first sightings of new animals to me are wonderful memories. One of my favourite firsts was seeing a hummingbird - to me it looked like a fairy and I am still overjoyed when I see them. It is a privilege to be there for children's first sightings and then to watch their relationship with nature deepen over time as the natural world becomes familiar to them.
Working as an early childhood educator in Australia and in Canada, I bring my interest and enthusiasm for art and music to our groups. A lot of the art that I create focuses on creatures from the natural world in Canada and Australia. Nature is endlessly inspiring and children have unique perspectives on it which result in interesting creations. I particularly enjoy sharing songs on guitar and ukulele which feature nature themes which span from ancient times to current and even well into the future. Music that crosses time is powerful and I hope that by sharing it I can inspire a love of nature in children.