MEET OUR TEAM
Growing up in Collingwood, it’s no wonder that I have always had a heart for playing outside and exploring new spaces. I graduated from Brock University’s Health and Physical Education Program, where I learned the significance of play-based learning and got a real taste of how to create and adapt programs to keep everyone engaged. Keen to continue exploring and learning, I further completed a Bachelor of Education in Outdoor Ecological and Experiential Education at Lakehead University. Through this program, I further understood the significant influence that meaningful outdoor, experiential education can have on the whole-child, and how essential it is on the development of today’s youth.
I have spent summers planting trees throughout Canada’s Great North, have worked with Free Spirit as a guide and camp counselor for over six years, and am currently working as a Residential Youth Counselor at Pine River Institute, an outdoor therapeutic learning centre for youth. In my free time, I enjoy camping, climbing, and being on the water.
I am very eager to join in with your child on their learning journey and support them as they discover themselves in the natural world around them! It’s a great time to be a Painted Turtle!
Matt Simpson has a passion for the outdoors and its use in empowering students through meaningful experiences. He graduated from Lakehead University with an Honours Bachelor of Outdoor Recreation, Parks and Tourism, as well as a Bachelor of Geography. He then further completed a Bachelor of Education in Outdoor Ecological and Experiential Education. He has dedicated himself to working with children and young adults in various outdoor pursuits, programs and facilitation roles. For 4 years, he worked for Katimavik, a non-profit Canadian national youth volunteer experiential education program as a live-in facilitator. Matt is graduate of the NOLS Outdoor Educator program and has also spent years living and working abroad.
My name is Krista and I will be implementing nature-based education within Forest School starting September 2016.
I have grown up in Collingwood and reaped the benefits of outdoor activities within all four seasons. I have a passion for the outdoors along with creative thinking, hands on learning and I like to encourage active living.
I have graduated from the College of the Rockies with a certificate in Adventure Tourism Business Operations as well as a diploma in Recreation and Leisure at Georgian College. I have worked with children for the past ten years starting from adventure day camps, youth programs, Jack Rabbit ski classes and the Free Spirit Adventure Kids Camp. I am excited to start this new journey and see what new adventures we can find. And remember, not all classrooms have four walls.
I am Jen Thompson and I am your Thursday Collingwood Forest School teacher! I grew up in the Blue Mountain area and have spent most of my adult life here as well. I have always thrived being outdoors and have found infinite things to pique my curiosity and learn about in the natural world around us. I have a thirst for learning about the natural world and spend as much time outside as possible. I am an avid horse rider and love hiking, biking, snowshoeing and camping. I have a Bachelor of Science from the University of Guelph, with a minor in music and a Bachelor of Education from Nipissing University.
During my University years I taught Equestrian summer camps and took as many field biology courses as possible. I was fortunate to spend my summers outside with horses and children and attend field biology classes at the Wildlife Research Station in Algonquin Park, so I was able to spend part of my university years learning outside. I believe that I learned more in my field biology classes than in all my other classes combined – outdoor education is the best way to learn!
For the past 8 years I have been living on a farm between the Duncan Crevice Caves Nature Reserve and Kolapore Uplands and teaching equestrian riding lessons. On our farm we have an organic market garden, chickens and horses. I am very fortunate to live on my dream farm and have thousands of acres of crown land around me – an amazing backyard to explore!
I look forward to spending time outdoors with Free Spirit Forest School students and facilitating their exploration and learning about the natural world around them in this beautiful area of the Blue Mountains that we call home.
Neal grew up outside the city of Hamilton on a hobby farm his parents created for field trips for their students. He was lucky enough to take care of animals and eat the vegetables they grew in the garden.
He went to the University of Waterloo for Life Sciences, and completed a Teacher’s College program for outdoor experiential education at Lakehead University. He discovered the need for life experiences over rote learning half way through his bachelor degree. Being bored of the classroom and overworked, he decided to take a risk of learning how to guide commercial rafting trips in B.C over the summer. After reigniting his passion for learning, he attended a field ecology course in Algonquin Park through the University of Guelph, and decided to work outside as much as possible from then on.
After he completed his degree in 2009, he started working at Blue Mountain as a snowboard instructor and met Matt Code. He has worked with Free Spirit Tours ever since. He has created programs for Big Brothers Big Sisters in Collingwood and Wasaga Beach for boys on the waiting list to receive a big brother.
Neal happily works for Highlands Nordic Outdoor Education Centre and Cross Country Ski Resort in Duntroon teaching hands on science and giving students memorable field trips. He is excited to step in and explore with the Forest school kids this winter!