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
Dr. John Morrissey, 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.
Rick Levick, Vice Chair
Rick was on the founding committee of NCEE’s nascent organization Kids for Turtles Norfolk. Known as “the turtle guy” in the Long Point area, he was the coordinator of the Long Point Causeway Improvement Project from 2007 to 2017. Rick believed that educating young people about nature would help raise all people’s awareness the risks of roads to local wildlife, especially the many Species at Risk turtles and snakes found here. He encouraged local author Jan Everett (see Partners) to publish and distribute her children’s book, Never Give Up, about a little boy, Johnny, helping turtles safely cross a busy road.
Rick served as president of the Long Point Bay Anglers Association from 1996 to 2007, and helped launch the Association’s Live Release boat for bass fishing tournaments. He also served as president of the Long Point Biosphere Region from 2018 to 2021.
A “Long Pointer” since age 3, Rick has more than 40 years of experience in public relations, project and non-profit management and science education outreach. He has a Masters degree in Journalism from the University of Western Ontario and is accredited with the Public Relations Society of Canada.
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.
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.
Shanaya Vanhooren, Director
Shanaya is a PhD candidate (ABD) in the department of political science at the University of Western Ontario. Her broad research interests include local politics, public policy, and Canadian politics.
Shanaya grew up in Norfolk County and has always spent a lot of her time outdoors. She is passionate about providing quality education whether it is in a classroom or outdoor setting. She has worked as an instructor and teaching assistant at the university level; as outdoor educator for Nature’s Calling Environmental Education; student museum curator at Canada’s First Forestry Station; and as a Heritage Events Coordinator and Historical Interpreter at Backus Heritage Conservation Area. In her spare time, Shanaya enjoys walking her dog on the many Norfolk County trails, fishing, and spending time outdoors.
Bernie Solymár, Executive Director and Treasurer
Bernie is the 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 General Manager for the Berry Growers 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. Since 2010 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.
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".
Melisa Chambers, Forest Pre-school Educator
Melisa has been a Registered Early Childhood Educator for ten years. Early on in her career, Melisa recognized her passion for outdoor play within the early years setting and thus began her goal to learn the forest school philosophy. Melisa is currently taking the Forest School Practitioners Certification Course with the Child and Nature Alliance of Canada. Melisa loves spending her day with her forest preschoolers exploring and playing. Melisa enjoys working with children because of their natural sense of curiosity in the world around them and being outside with them only enhances this.
Along with her RECE from Fanshawe College, Melisa also has received her Bachelor of Arts from Nipissing University. In her free time, Melisa is busy spending time with her family.
Anna Fairley, Forest School Educator
Anna grew up in a nature-centered family and spent most of her childhood in the woods of the provincial park surrounding her home. With heavily used field guides on almost every bookshelf and binoculars always at the ready, her parents taught her to identify flora and fauna and the importance of nature conservation from a young age.
Now as a mother and educator, Anna spends much of her time in the woods with her son and enjoys helping others identify the plant species found in the Carolinian landscapes of Norfolk County.
After working as an elementary teacher for eleven years, Anna believes in high-quality education. She now develops online content for Knowledgehook, an award-winning math instructional system. Anna also designs nature-based educational materials for students. She loves to learn and share knowledge of the outdoors as well as an appreciation for the wellness, wisdom and inspiration gained from spending time in the woods.
Megan Hiebert, Summer Camp Leader
Megan grew up in the Long Point Area and has loved spending time in nature her whole life. Megan started volunteering in nature education as a pre-teen and after a stint coaching gymnastics and leading art workshops came back to nature education. During the summers of her undergrad, Megan worked as a field tech and assistant educator at Birds Canada which led to a full-time job as the Ontario Aerial Insectivore Program Coordinator at Birds Canada.
Megan has a Bachelor of Environmental Studies with a minor in biology from the University of Waterloo. She is currently finishing up a Bachelor of Education from Redeemer University (expected graduation date May 2023) and works as a supply teacher. Megan loves spending time outdoors, working with kids, and doing art.
Karla Falk, Family Nature Club Coordinator
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.
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.