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An Interview with Clarissa Cremin-Endes & Jon Hayes
May 23, 2019 by Haya Aldoori

On June 2, Clarissa Cremin-Endes and Jon Hayes will be co-leading a "Teachers in Nature" to help participants better incorporate nature and outdoor time into their classrooms.

We had a few questions for Clarissa and Jon, which they generously answered.

Clarissa Cremin-Endes & Jon Hayes

HPNC: Can you tell us about your relationship to nature growing up?

Jon: Nature was always my “content place”. When camping with my family I’d feel more at peace than any other time of the year. My mom would carve out a little spot in the garden for me to grow mint and strawberries and I would check to see how big my pumpkin had grown by visiting it daily and sitting on it. Some of my fondest memories are of getting up before dawn to go fishing with my Dad. All of these experiences felt exciting to me and I hope all kids can have access to those moments of connection with nature.

Clarissa: I grew up on a small farm where I learned from generations of my family how to grow flowers, vegetable, and raise livestock. My father would bring us to help in urban community gardens on the weekends where we spent more time making new friends than weeding. We spent much time by the seashore and in the forests by my family home exploring with my brothers and cousins till the stars came out. Nature always provided us new experiences and constant entertainment.

HPNC: How did you first become interested in outdoor education?

Jon: After my Bachelor of Education at OISE, I did my community placement at the Nature Centre and was instantly hooked. I loved how alive students felt when exploring the forests, getting close (or touching) insects and being immersed in the black oak savannah. Then I saw how adults felt that same incredible feeling. That feeling can be very powerful.

Clarissa: I have always enjoyed passing on the knowledge my grandparents and parents taught me to my younger family members. My interest in environmental justice lead me to complete a Master of Social Justice Education with and Environmental collaborative at OISE. I am drawn to outdoor education because it is the kind of learning that has always excited me the most since childhood and it promotes connection among people and to the land.

Jon teaching in nature

HPNC: What skill(s) are you most looking forward to sharing with teachers and educators at this workshop?

Jon: I always love making sound maps because each individual brings their own unique sense of observation and they depict the same soundscape in such different ways!

Clarissa: I’m looking forward to discussing integrating outdoor/environmental education within diverse school settings. One of my favorite activities I will share brings math to life as we figure out how old some of the trees are. I often utilize this activity as a jumping off point for talking about the history of the land and the people who live here!

HPNC: Why is High Park an ideal location for this workshop?

Jon: High Park has the best of both worlds. There are globally endangered black oak savannah areas directly next to lawn areas. It is important to have those sensitive, significant ecologies of course, but most school yards resemble the lawn areas that can handle a higher impact. So we can practice nature connection in many different ways.

Clarissa: Jon really said it perfectly! We want to workshop to be useful for teachers coming from all different kinds of educational settings. Plus its close to the TTC and you get to spend some time out enjoying the nature in the park yourself.

Clarissa teaching in nature

HPNC: Can you share with us a favourite moment each of you has had as a teacher, facilitating nature learning for children?

Jon: I like it when kids see deeper truths. I was talking with a summer camper about invasive plant species. We were talking about how the plants are just doing what they do really well and it isn’t their fault that they are reducing biodiversity. The summer camper summed it up as: “ a good guy in the wrong place”.

Clarissa: When walking with a school group through the forest, learning about trees, a student shared about how his family grew mango trees where he grew up. It is really special to see how even in a new place our love and knowledge of nature translates and connects us!

More about Clarissa:

Clarissa Cremin-Endes is a grateful new member of the High Park Nature Centre team, serving as the School Programs Coordinator. She has a passion for incorporating nature to create accessible and culturally relative learning experiences. With a Master of Social Justice Education with a specialization in Environmental Science from OISE/UofT (2018) she is enthusiastic about collaborating to bring attention to the nature all around us in both parks and urban areas.

More about Jon:

Jon Hayes joined the HPNC team in 2006. After receiving his Bachelor of Education at OISE/UofT, Jon fell in love with teaching in an outdoor setting and has been doing it ever since. Jon looks for ways to connect people of all ages with their local ecology through immersive, hands-on experiences. Jon has also taught at Toronto Botanical Garden.

For more information about Adult Workshops and to register

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