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
Marie Poss, Chair
Marie is an outdoor enthusiast! She brings her love of the outdoors and her passion for education to the organization. Marie works as a professor of Early Childhood Education at Fanshawe College (Simcoe Campus) and enjoys teaching future ECE’s the value of nature based play. Marie was born and raised in Norfolk County and enjoys exploring the wonders of the Carolinian region through running, hiking, and biking. As a busy mother of two young children, in the summer she can be found playing in her backyard mud pit and digging for worms!
Dr. John Morrissey, Vice-Chair
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.
Ed Dertinger, Director
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.
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.
Robin DeCloet, Director
Robin joined the Board of Directors in February 2018.
She 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.
On behalf of NCEE, she also organizes the Shinin’ Times Mountain Man Rendezvous in September.
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.
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.
Brooke Martin, Director
Brooke Martin graduated with distinction from Western University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing. She works as a registered nurse in the ER and ICU at Norfolk General Hospital. She sits on 3 committees at the hospital, all working towards improving patient safety and experience.
Brooke has always been interested in, and advocated for, environmental sustainability. She has been involved with the Charlotteville Agricultural Society, and Cleaning up Norfolk. Brooke also ran for MP in the most recent federal election under the Green Party of Canada. She is now trying to help raise awareness of the important connection humans have with nature.
Beth McCallum, Director
Beth grew up in Norfolk west and was always drawn to our outdoor spaces. Playing, exploring, camping, Girl Guides and outdoor clubs at school, kept her in the woods, along the rivers and streams and generally, out of trouble.
She retired from a career of teaching elementary school in the spring of 2017. For over 30 years, she sought ways for students to connect with the outdoors, through activities such as adopt-a-tree, sketching outdoors, nature journals, Backus trips and research.
Currently, she enjoys running, cycling and walking the trails in Norfolk county, participating in Feederwatch, amateur photography and naturalizing her backyard. Beth joined the Board of Directors in February 2020.
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.
Colleen Dale, Lead Forest School 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. In 2018 she also attained her certification from Forest Schools Canada as a Forest School Practitioner. 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.
Laura Ehnes, Forest School Educator
Laura grew up with the Nith River floodplain in her backyard, going exploring with her brothers and not coming back until supper. She completed her post-secondary school at the University of Guelph in Environmental Science.
Laura has 17 years of experience working at the Grand River Conservation Authority as a Nature Interpreter, Camp Coordinator, and Environmental Educator. Throughout that time, she was lucky enough to work at 6 of their Nature Centres. She has also worked with the Waterloo Region District School board as an Environmental Educator during many short term contracts. Laura loves being outside, working with kids, traveling, and learning new things every day. Laura recently moved to Norfolk County and is excited to "discover and enjoy the local nature along with our Forest School kids".
Nicole McLennan, Forest School Educator
Nicole is a graduate of the Ecosystem Management Technology program from Sir Sandford Fleming College. Nicole has had a passion for the environment for most of her life. As a young teen she volunteered with Grand River Conservation Authority (GRCA) as a naturalist in training. She later worked as a camp counsellor, running several environmental youth programs.
As an outdoor educator, Nicole believes "that the environment can offer a wide range of benefits to all ages. From finding critters under logs, to just a walking through the forest to de-stress. In my free time, I like to take my inspiration from nature and create a variety of artwork. I’m looking forward to sharing my love of nature with your children and learning something new every day".
Jen Smit-Holbrook, Assistant Forest School Educator
Jen has learned from many professionals and leaders in the field of outdoor education. She began as a student at Backus Heritage Conservation Area, Norfolk County, and the Scarborough Outdoor Education School. Over the past several years she has supported children with special needs as a Classroom Facilitator. Jen is the proud recipient of an Early Childhood Education Award. She is currently studying in the Library and Information Technician program at Mohawk College.
Jen states, "I believe the greatest gift we can give to children, is the gift of nature. I am so excited to be joining the team at the Norfolk Forest School. It is a dream come true for me to have this opportunity! I look forward to all the adventures, journeys and memories that will be made."
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.
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.