Our mission is to connect youth and families with nature and the outdoors, to raise awareness and appreciation for our natural world, and to foster a strong environmental ethic through community-based education and engagement.
Nature's Calling Environmental Education is dedicated to addressing and correcting 'nature deficit disorder' - a term developed by Richard Louv, and addressed in his seminal book, Last Child in the Woods, used to describe the lack of nature in the lives of today's wired generation. We strongly believe that environmental education and direct connections with nature will cultivate an understanding and awareness in youth that is vital for healthy children and, ultimately, a healthy world.
Located in the heart of Carolinian Canada, we live in a region that boasts the highest diversity of plants and animals in the country, a vast array of habitats and natural areas, nature trails and outdoor activities, and a community with a strong environmental ethic.
Our mandate is to:
- To provide educational and outreach activities to children and families to foster an appreciation of and respect for nature and the environment;
- To promote conservation and stewardship of our environment through outdoor learning and classroom programming;
- To engage youth and to help develop environmental leaders for a more sustainable future.
Board of Directors
Ed Dertinger, Chair
Raised on a tobacco farm outside LaSalette, Ed has recently retired from 32 years of teaching. He has a myriad of interests that range from adventure travel, to golfing, to motorcycling,to hiking. He is presently on the last section of hiking the entire Bruce Trail. Being connected to the natural world has always been a priority. Community involvement includes volunteering at the local school and the Delhi Tobacco and Heritage Museum, where he continues to assist local youth with their learning. Past commitments involve being a long term member of the Delhi Lions Club and a 10 year youth soccer coach for the Norfolk Soccer Club. Ed says that being involved with Nature's Calling as a director is a perfect marriage of love of nature and commitment to life-long learning.
Wanda Backus-Kelly, Vice Chair
Wanda is a life-long Norfolk resident, whose roots go back to the founding families of the Long Point Settlement. While her academic background is within fine arts, holding a BA in Dance from the University of Waterloo, Wanda also keenly appreciates what it means to live within Carolinian Canada. She credits her Grandma Backus with inspiring in her a love the Arts, along with a deep respect for the natural world. In her current role as an educator, Wanda seeks to inspire her students to engage more fully in the wonder of the nature of Norfolk County in the hopes that they will also adopt a love of and respect for nature that will stay with them into their adult lives. Wanda has been on the Board of Directors since the organization’s inception and served as Chair from 2012 to 2015.
Frank Yalaksa, Director
Frank has a background in natural resources. He worked as a fish and wildlife technician for 10 years at many different projects, including wild turkey trap and transfer, sea lamprey control, tundra swan trapping, fish studies and creation of wildlife corridors along drainage ditches to name a few. Frank is a Norfolk county native and continues to live in and enjoy the area with his young family. He is an avid angler and hunter and enjoys passing his knowledge of the outdoors to his kids and others by volunteering at fishing and wildlife events. Frank is employed by the Ministry of Transportation in highway patrol. He has been a director with NCEE since 2013.
Rick Dowson, Director
Rick has been interested in nature since a child when he and his family lived in the country, and relaxation was to disappear into the woods and farmland and observe plants and animals. After completing teachers college, he taught Grade 6 & 7. He then took a hiatus to get his Biology/Ecology degree at University of Western Ontario. He returned to the school system to teach high school Math and Science, and later lectured in Ecology and Biology at Conestoga College. Before retiring he spent several years educating at Nature Centers for the Grand River Conservation Authority. In his retirement he has taken part local bird counts, led hikes, and talked to people and groups about backyard ecology enhancement. He and his wife, Brit, create and sell natural wood buttons.
Carmen Davis, Director
As a busy mother of two and dutiful master of a Bichon Frise, Carmen spends most of her time in the classroom. When the school day ends you can find her outdoors running, walking, swimming, coaching soccer or reading the latest book pick from her book club Lit Chicks. She is a lover of both nature and the arts and has performed in various plays and musicals at the Lighthouse Festival Theatre and Simcoe Little Theatre. Carmen has been on the Board of Directors for Nature’s Calling since 2012, and enjoys volunteering her time face painting at their various festivals and events.
Dr. John Morrissey, Director
Dr. Morrissey is relatively new to Norfolk County. He and his wife Dr. Claire Morrissey were attracted to the area when searching for a place to return to a rural location to live. He grew up in a forested area and found the Carolinian Forest of Norfolk of great interest. John has become involved in the community, serving on the boards of The Norfolk Woodlot Owners Association and the St. Williams Conservation Reserve Community Council. He also maintains membership in the Norfolk Field Naturalists and Bird Studies Canada.
John holds a BSc, MA and PhD in Psychology and Human Development. He continues to have a strong interest in Developmental Psychology. He is a Registered Psychotherapist and has a practice in Simcoe, where he conducts individual, couples and family therapy, including work with children experiencing developmental challenges.
Jennifer Schooley, Director
Jennifer has been working for Haldimand-Norfolk REACH, a local Children's Mental Health Agency, for the past 15 years in a variety of roles including parent education at the Ontario Early Years Centre, bullying and suicide prevention and youth engagement. She is also a Chapter Leader for the local 'Parents for Children's Mental Health' family support group in Norfolk, and travels for PCMH to speak publicly about being a parent of a child with mental health challenges. She grew up on a local apple farm and currently lives on a small farm with her 3 children and spends a lot of time outside with them. She has seen, firsthand, the effect that nature has on herself and her children, and is a strong believer in nature and it's positive effects on our mental health.
Karla Falk, Director
With an education background in ecology (B.Sc , Guelph; M.Sc , Trent) and working numerous field biology jobs over the years, Karla has a strong passion for being outside—enjoying and conserving nature. Her husband’s job at Bird Studies Canada brought them to the Long Point area in 2011, when Karla chose to stay at home to raise their two young girls. Observing her own children learn and explore the world combined with her background as a biologist led to an interest in the importance of nature-exposure in child development, which brought her to the NCEE board. When she is not exploring the woods with her kids, you can find her gardening, cooking, practicing yoga, and organizing the Port Rowan Farmers’ Market.
Lisa VanDenEeckhout, Director
Lisa has recently reconnected with nature after tackling her fear of snakes back in 2014. She has since participated in snake and turtle surveys, and outreach events with the Long Point Basin Land Trust and can be found in her spare time fishing, trail walking, canoeing and exploring the Carolinian region with her husband and son. She brings with her a wealth of outreach experience as a recruitment lead with the Ministry of Community, Safety and Correctional Services. Lisa feels passionately about children getting outdoors and connecting them with nature through play, and educating them about the incredible biodiversity they encounter and can protect in our area - experiences to take with them into their adult lives.
Bernie Solymár, Executive Director and Treasurer
Bernie is the co-founder of Nature’s Calling Environmental Education. He is a life-long naturalist and trained biologist. He worked for the Ministry of Agriculture and Food for 12 years before founding his own company EarthTramper Consulting Inc., which specialized in working with landowners on stewardship issues, species at risk conservation and habitat enhancement. He is currently the Executive Director for the Asparagus Farmers of Ontario.
Bernie has a B.Sc. Honours (Agriculture) from the University of Guelph (1985) and a M.Sc. in Biology from Brock University (1988). He is an avid gardener, eco-traveller, photographer and nature hike leader, and lives with his family in Pt. Ryerse.
Bernie’s passion for working with children began with an 18 year stint as a soccer coach. For the last 8 years he has focused on implementing the mission of NCEE by coordinating it’s programs, raising funds, and spreading the word about the organization’s work through social media and presentations.
Lauren Dehens, Nature Educator
Lauren is responsible for delivery of all our indoor and outdoor school programming, and our Eco-Explorer Daycamp. Additionally she organizes camps on P.A. Days and during March Break, and other family outdoor events.
Lauren holds a Bachelor of Science (Honors) in Biology from Western University, and a Master’s Degree with a focus on Marine Conservation and Environmental Education from Dalhousie University. Lauren has a range of experience working with children, students, and families, from facilitating nature play programming with Evergreen, teaching biology with Dalhousie University’s Department of Biology, volunteering as a Science Educator with the charitable organization Let’s Talk Science, as well as through her own private tutoring practice within Norfolk County.
Lauren is passionate about environmental conservation, teaching, and making a difference. She strongly believes that through hands-on, inquiry-based learning we can deepen the connection between youth and the natural world, and that by spreading environmental awareness, we can inspire and excite youth into becoming positive environmental stewards.
In her free time, Lauren enjoys baking and crafting, being active in the outdoors, and spending time with her loved ones on her family farm in Norfolk County.
Leanne Gauthier-Helmer, Environmental Educator
Leanne Gauthier-Helmer is a naturalist, photographer and mother of two. She can often be seen on the many trail systems and in the numerous wetlands that are found in and around Norfolk County, where she is constantly building on her knowledge of the natural world around us. Leanne is a part-time Environmental Educator with Nature’s Calling, leading interpretive hikes and delivering programming for the Lessons in a Backpack program.
Colleen Dale, Forest Kindergarten Educator
Colleen is responsible for coordinating and delivering our Forest Kindergarten (launched September 2017) where children between the ages of 3 and 6 and while learn and play in Nature’s classroom – the woods and fields of our outdoor centre.
Colleen is the co-founder of Nature’s Calling and was the organization’s Nature Educator until 2014, when she took a leave of absence to start a family. She has her Early Childhood Educators certificate from Fanshawe College, and a diploma in Ecosystem Management from Sir Sandford Fleming College. She has been teaching and involved in environmental education for almost 20 years. She began working for Ontario Parks as a Natural Heritage Educator and the Long Point Region Conservation Authority as an Outdoor Educator. She has developed Ontario curriculum based modules for experiential nature and environmental classes - both for the classroom and outdoors.
Colleen lives with her partner and two girls in Pinegrove.
Robin DeCloet, Heritage Educator
Robin coordinates NCEE activities that highlight the close relationship that First Nations and earl Europeans had with nature. She organizes the Shinin’ Times Mountain Man Rendezvous and other family outdoor events that focus on the days of yesteryear.
Robin attended York University (Psychology & English); Fanshawe College (Developmental Service Work majoring in Sign Language); and Laurier University (History). She has more than 25 years of experience working directly with children throughout Norfolk County for the Children’s Aid Society, the Grand Erie Board of Education as an Interpreter specializing in Augmentative Facilitation, and for Long Point Region Conservation Authority as the Heritage Programmer/ Curator.
Robin’s work as an educator has always extended beyond the classroom realizing that children learn through problem-solving, direct observation, relationships and their natural and manmade surroundings experiencing hands-on activity. Robin believes it is important to increase awareness of environmental problems and instill an environmental ethic in students to foster the skills and strategies for solving those problems to deal with environmental issues we are facing not only in the world but also those of our own community.
Robin is a lifelong resident of Norfolk County living with her husband and two teenaged children on their third generation family farm.
Jan and John Everett, Educators
Several years ago Jan wrote a children's book about a turtle trying to cross the road called Never Give Up for her husband’s birthday. The book became a way of promoting and raising funds for the Long Point Causeway Improvement Project , which has saved the lives of countless turtles and snakes. Jan and husband John took the project one step forward and now deliver an educational and fun presentation in which she does a reading of the book, followed by a demonstration by John on how to safely carry turtles across the road. Jan and John enjoy occasionally volunteering their time to the NCEE for events such as presentations in local provincial and private parks, libraries and summer camps.
- Butterfly and Dragonfly Festival, 2012
- New organization formed to provide nature-based education for local children and families.
For more information please email email@example.com or call us at 519-410-7376
Tim Hagen’s Photo Gallery
Reprinted with the kind permission of Tim Hagen. To learn more about Tim or order his book, please see longpointphotography.com.
The Snapper is a newsletter produced by Nature’s Calling Environmental Education (formerly Kids for Turtles and When Nature Calls). You can download high-quality printable versions here.