Heather Fraser – BCYC, ECE
Owner & Forest Educator
A mother of two, I am passionate about working with children and have a love for the outdoors. I have taught in a number of early childhood settings including toddler, preschool, and school-aged programs. I have a passion for nature and I am excited to share that passion with others around me. I spend my time gardening with my two children and exploring the beautiful trails and beaches around our home. I feel that it is so important to get outside whatever the weather and connect with the world around us.
My academic background includes a BA in Child and Youth Care from the University of Victoria, as well as an Early Childhood Certificate. I continue to take many professional development course in Early Childhood Education to keep up with current information in the field.
My passion for outdoor play and my understanding of the importance of connecting our children with nature inspired me to build Saplings Outdoor Program. I hope through this program to share our appreciation for nature and a compassion for all living things.
TK Hannah- RECE
TK or "Teacher TK” is a outdoor educator with years of experience in forest school programs and fulltime private forest schools.
They grew up on acres of land in a rural area of Northern Ontario where their love for nature began.
TK graduated with a diploma in Early Childhood Education from Niagara College where they developed a deep passion for the early years. Since graduating, they worked in resource and curriculum development and have presented at numerous workshops about forest school, curriculum, risk and adventure play.
TK is passionate about education reform and firmly believes in child-led, inquiry based learning and that learning and play should come hand-in-hand, no matter what age! As a co-learner TK is eager to continue learning about West Coast ecology with the children.
At Saplings Outdoor Program, TK strives to create a safe and equitable environment for children where they are free to discuss big ideas, explore, take risks and have wild adventures.
Laura Burki- Outdoor Rec Diploma (ODR) ECE
Laura joins us from Victoria BC where she has spend the last two decades teaching nature based outdoor pre-K and kinder programs to kids with a passion for the outdoors.
Bringing many treasures in her treasure chest Laura is beyond grateful to be joining the teachers of Saplings this year.
Laura has a background in both outdoor recreation and education and specializes in nature based programming and food access (building gardens )
Laura believes that the learning never stops and is dedicated to the development of your child.
I am so excited to be part of the blossoming Saplings team. I have seen the joy that a morning out with Heather and the team brings to the children... they love it! I spent most of my time growing up on my best friend's farm, where whole days would go by carving out dens in hedgerows, making potions from mud and flowers, and climbing hay bales. There is such freedom in being outside.
Originally from the UK, I was initially employed by local government to develop trails and access to the outdoors. Following a postgrad diploma in conservation, I worked for various wildlife conservation organizations. Wanting to move more into the environmental education side of things, I spent several years working with both children and young people at risk on practical conservation projects and creative outdoor art installations. I am a firm believer that play, particularly outdoors play, is the best way for little ones to learn vital lifelong skills. In return, instilling a love for the outdoors in our children ensures the next generation of advocates for our wild and natural places.
I also have 3 small boys who are a constant reminder of the importance of mud, sticks, puddles, mud, and imagination to the growing child. Hmmm, did I mention mud?...
I grew up and studied sociology in Ontario and moved to Vancouver in the summer of 2015. I have loved it ever since. I quickly spent most of my free time hiking and camping, as well as fishing and canoeing. Being outdoors continuously reminds me of how we need to appreciate and look after our forests, lakes, oceans, and animals. Not to mention all the life and survival skills I've gained along the way!
I have become involved in community and residential support work for a wide array of clients, and I have been in the field for over three years. I have gained hands-on experience in what compassionate, trustworthy, skilled, and professional supports for a diverse community like the North Shore's truly looks like. I want to share this valuable knowledge with youth in a supportive environment to equip them with lifelong skills.
Amanda Cook– BA, ECE
I first realized I wanted to be a nature preschool educator the summer I worked on a farm and witnessed the appearance of vegetables growing out of the earth. Bewildered and humbled by the whole process, I imagined the magic of sharing this with young children. I’ve been lucky to witness many magical and meaningful moments over the years, it is my joy to facilitate children’s relationship to nature.
My skills as a nature educator have accumulated while working and training with: Victoria Nature School, Nanaimo Forest Kids, Tofino Nature Kids, Saplings (Squamish), Country Cottage Preschool (Oregon), and Fresh Air Learning (N. Vancouver). My academic background includes a B.A. in Environmental Studies and Social Justice from the University of Victoria, an Associate of Arts degree in Global Stewardship from Capilano University, and Early Childhood Education license from Northern Lights College.
My pedagogy is inquiry based, child led, emergent education, with a sprinkle of inspiration from Waldorf and Reggio Emilia philosophies. I am a defender (and participant!) of play, healthy risk and hands on learning. I believe that in order to expect humans to protect an environment, they must truly know and love it. This is why place based learning is an excellent model for early childhood education, and Saplings is a school I am thrilled to be a part of!
Maria Jose Obando Paez, MA Ed
Coming from Ecuador, I have grown up in a place surrounded by so many beautiful landscapes and unique animal and plant species. Ecuador is a place where you can be amazed by the mountains, beaches, rain forest, and islands. Since I was child, I enjoyed traveling around my country with my family and discovering new and amazing places in nature. I love to be outside.
My passion for environmental studies started when I realized that my country’s ecosystems were being destroyed by uncontrolled human activities. I decided not to be part of the destruction, but part of the solution. During my university studies in Environmental Engineering, I found out that education is the key to changing our relationship with nature. To connect kids with nature will lead our society to protect our home, Earth, instead of harming it. I truly believe that education can change the world.
Three years ago I came to Canada to earn my masters degree in Environmental Education, and I fell in love with Canada. I love to hike, camp, see the stars, look for animals, and swim in lakes and oceans. I continue visiting new places, and love to explore.
I am very excited to start working with Saplings Outdoor Program, and to share my passion with the students, while learning from them as well. I am sure it will be an unforgettable experience!
Marina Landry, ECE Assistant
I was born and raised in Calgary. I started sports at a young age, and in my teens, I played elite ringette in the winter and fast pitch in the off season. Calgary is a beautiful city with so much culture to offer. In addition to my love for competitive sports, in my teens I also discovered Calgary offered mountain adventures just 20 minutes from my home.
I worked in childcare in Calgary for four years, which included caring for toddlers and preschoolers, as well as running an after school program. Working in the daycare environment in Calgary allowed me the privilege of introducing children to the wonders of the outdoors in the city parks. I’m a visual learner, so getting my Childhood Education Assistant certificate was an interesting journey!
My heart then took me to Panorama Mountain for three years, where I supervised the daycare program, as well as the Activities and Camps programs. This was an amazing experience, as I’m always eager to introduce youth to the wonders the mountains has to offer. My personal goal is to continue my education, not only in early childhood development, but also exploring how my skills can contribute to the success of special needs programs.
I am so ecstatic to contribute and be a part of the Saplings Program!
Kate MacDonald, BA
I moved to Vancouver from Ontario just last year and am so grateful for this opportunity to spend time in the BC forests learning and growing with kids. I’ve worked with children in a variety of community based educational settings for over 10 years, including in-city recreation programs, after-school programs, schoolyard classrooms, and community garden/farm settings.
Although I will always consider myself a student, I recently graduated from Brock University in St. Cathrines, Ontario with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Child and Youth Studies and a Master of Arts degree in Social Justice and Equity Studies. Through my research, which explores children’s experiences in outdoor learning environments, I’ve become a strong advocate of child-led learning in natural spaces.
I am a community educator, and a social and environmental activist, focusing on social justice pedagogy, children’s agency, and promoting community engagement for young people. I love swimming in the ocean, playing in the snow, and growing food with friends and my community.
Kyala is lover of all things in nature. She has travelled around the world and has climbed many trees, and scrambled rocks on many ocean shores. She has swam with the Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins for more than 200 hours. She is a multi-faceted human being who loves children and is very playful. She has a degree in Engineering and in Waldorf Education. She enjoys playing music and singing and can be seen carrying her ukulele in her backpack for the joy of sharing song. She also loves to paint and draw and is always looking to see what she can co-create with nature and with other people. Kyala sometimes feels like she was born to live outside and has special tree friends everywhere she goes. She is very community-minded and is currently in a yoga teacher program which feels like a big extended family. Kyala brings all facets of herself to her work with the children.
Verena Kunz, BA
I grew up in Germany and moved to Vancouver with my partner and our 4 year old son, 2.5 years ago. Since then we have enjoyed and appreciated the abundance and beauty in nature, exploring the amazing wildlife and trying to connect to nature whenever we can – in the backyard, on the beach or in the forest.
Back in Germany I was working with children with special needs in various inclusive programs. I was fascinated by this work - bringing children with and without special needs together so they can learn from one another on different levels.
I have a degree in Psychomotricity – working with children in a way that is not oriented on performance, results, or deficiency. Instead, it is based on experience and personality, so every child can develop and express themselves in a play-based, joyful, free, and organic way. The goal is for children to reach the capacity to act safely act independently with regard to motor activity, cognition, and affective social levels. Through movement, creativity, and joy the child will stabilize their personality and trust in their own established abilities.
I am also passionate about nature, wildlife, the environment, and sustainable living. I love to teach this to our 4 year old son, and I believe that it is necessary to start at a very early age in order to create awareness and appreciation for our beautiful mother Earth, The positive effects of being in nature is necessary to protect the world we are living in.
We try to be in nature as often as possible - connecting to the different seasons, searching for little creatures, being creative, and doing crafts with what we find in nature, developing various motor skills, and growing through what nature provides to us.
I believe that in nature children can connect easier with one another even though they bring different preconditions - in nature children form a community that grows with the various tasks and achievements.,
Mahya Ekhteraei Sanaei
I am a mother of two girls, and I believe playing in nature has great impact on a child's development. I began discovering the 'power of nature' a few years ago when my child was enrolled in a Forest School in Iran. I realized then that I had to say goodbye to my bachelor degree in Business Administration and Economics. I attained an instructor certificate from the Forest School Kavi Konj Nature School in Iran. Meanwhile in Vancouver, I enrolled my other child at Saplings and received the opportunity to explore myself alongside my child while in outdoor programs. Saplings opened a new path in my life as I discovered myself happier outside playing and observing kids who learn through their own explorations. I am happy to be a part of the Saplings team, and help open new perspectives for people to discover that with the right gear, everyone is free to experience 'life' to its fullest. Let's get out there and allow kids to explore based on their own derived curiosity.
Squamish Forest Educator
The philosophy that Heather and the Saplings program reflects is one I feel strongly about, and one I have experienced as both a parent and educator/learning mentor in a variety of educational settings.
For instance, as a home learning family (for over 10 years), our ‘motto’ was always “the world is our classroom” and as an extension of this, the natural environment was a core place of learning for all three of my children - hours were spent in local forests and at the beach, exploring tidal pools. Today, my grown daughters (aged 24, 22 and 20) continue to love the outdoors and their stewardship for the environment, I believe, was nourished by these early experiences. Also, as a certified classroom teacher (for 10+ years), I was fortunate to work in multiage programs driven by play, inquiry, and attachment based curriculum, inspired by child-led and experiential approaches to learning. In addition, to the learning journey that parenthood, home learning, and my work experience has provided, however, I also hold a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of British Columbia.
In short, I am incredibly excited to work as a Forest Educator, not only because the Saplings Program aligns with my own guiding principles of education, but because it also represents a chance to pursue several passions of mine - my interest in alternative education, my love of the natural world, as well as my desire to work with children and families in my own community!
Jessie is a nature enthusiast, nutritionist + children’s yoga teacher moving towards a full-time career in education.
She used to teach yoga in Toronto both at private schools and as part of the TDSB (Toronto District School Board). Jessie also taught English as a second language, both in Italy and at the St. Felix community centre in Toronto
New to North Vancouver, Jessie is eager to learn more about the nature British Columbia ecology, and bring that passion to her classes. She believes in the forest school philosophy of being children-centric and interest-led and is so excited to be on the Saplings team!