Thu. Feb 29th, 2024
Kelly and Jordan hiking together on their days off

In our “Behind the Scenes” series, Discovery Program staff from across the province share a “behind the scenes” look at their favorite shows and projects. Today’s post comes from Jordan Welch and Kelly Taylor, Discovery Program staff at Lake Superior Provincial Park.

We have all been asked the question “what do you want to be when you grow up?”

We usually make the decision based on the experiences we have. For some, it’s school; For others, it is travel. Maybe even friends and family will help you decide your career path. We go outside.

Passion in the profession

When we were kids, we dreamed of turning our passion into a profession and becoming Discovery staff at Lake Superior Provincial Park.

Lake Superior Provincial Park – Coastal Trail

Many things influenced this dream. Our love for the park began with a family vacation that gave us many great memories, and our hearts continue to grow even bigger.

We both grew up in southern Ontario, went summer camping at Agawa Bay Campground, and surprisingly never met until we both worked as Discovery staff here in Lake Superior in 2017.

Trail on Lake Superior.

Our journey from young explorers to park interpreters (aka adult explorers) is as follows. We spend our summers surrounded by the wild and rugged natural world of Lake Superior Provincial Park. It fueled our love of the outdoors and fueled our curiosity about the area’s natural and cultural heritage.

It was the spark that inspired the dream: summers working for Ontario Parks.

Meet Jordan

My name is Jordan. This is my fourth season working for the Discovery Program. My father is an outdoor enthusiast and has a special relationship with rowing.

Before I could even utter a sentence, he tied me to a life jacket and loaded me into a canoe. I quickly followed my father’s example and fell in love with traveling by water. My mom is especially drawn to the challenging hikes and rewarding viewpoints, and the photographs that accompany them.

Jordan at a very young age on the beach of Agawa Bay with his father.Jordan and his father in Agawa Bay

When my family wasn’t loaded (dogs and all) into our red canoes, we hiked through the dense forest, cameras in hand, determined to complete every hiking trail Lake Superior Provincial Park has to offer.

Before I knew what Discovery was, my parents were my nature encyclopedias and are the reason I have such a deep love for nature. I peppered them with questions about plants, animals, and everything in between, and in return, they taught me rowing strokes, photography techniques, and how to use a field guide!

Jordan and his younger brother on the ground investigating moose droppings.Jordan, his little brother, and the moose run away.

While we spent most of our vacation in the park, I clearly remember attending countless evening programs and guided walks led by Discovery Park staff. I looked in awe at the naturalists in their professional uniforms, standing confidently on the amphitheater stage. They seemed so excited! I met some of the returning senior staff members and vowed to be like them when I grew up.

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Meet Kelly

My name is Kelly. This is my third season as part of the Discovery Program. I started camping at Agawa Bay Campground when I was three years old, with my parents and my older brother Joey (who also worked on Lake Superior as part of the maintenance crew).

Kelly and her older brother Joey stand on a log on the beach at Old Woman Bay.Kelly and her older brother Joey in Old Woman Bay

The park was always my first choice when asked where I would like to go during summer vacation. I spent much of my childhood exploring the Agawa Bay Campground and many of the park’s trails.

I discovered a love for Northern Ontario while exploring the stunning natural landscape of Lake Superior Provincial Park. From pebble beaches to forested trails and the numerous programs I insisted on attending to learn more about the park’s natural and cultural heritage, I was always entertained.

Kelly, Joey and their mother, standing among the trees, hiking in Lake Superior Provincial Park.Kelly, Joey and their mom hiking in Lake Superior Provincial Park

The staff were knowledgeable and friendly when I had questions for them and were eager to share their passions with visitors. I began to get to know the faces and names of Discovery’s returning staff and found that I forged lasting friendships. Their love of the park and the outdoors was infectious and I knew from the first program I attended that Discovery was the job for me.

The first steps

As avid show and event attendees, we became very familiar with the public aspects of Discovery, as well as many of the returning staff members. A few come to mind who always seemed to be out doing shows. We loved how dedicated and excited the entire staff was about the park, and it inspired us to be just as dedicated and enthusiastic.

After exploring and becoming expert visitors to Lake Superior Provincial Park, we both decided it was time to take our undying love of natural and cultural heritage to the next level. Requests have been submitted!

Our dream job

During our first weeks as Discovery students at Lake Superior Provincial Park, we were eager to dive headfirst into this exciting world of programming and performing. Little did we know that we would spend our first few seasons as Discovery students acting as sponges for new information.

Jordan on Trapper's Trail for a children's wetlands program.  Two children are seen exploring the display table with the water in the background.Jordan on Trapper’s Trail for a children’s wetlands program

We were immersed in a job that consisted largely of silent listening and observing, and we couldn’t have been happier. When we finally started creating our first children’s program, we quickly realized how much time and effort went into developing a high-quality Discovery Program. Accessories don’t grow on trees, you know? From developing a solid theme to writing a script and gathering all the necessary resources, programming is (literally) a full-time job and has a lot of moving parts behind the scenes.

Jordan (Serius), Kelly (The Sun) and other Discovery staff preparing for a night sky show posing for a photo.Jordan (Sirius), Kelly (the sun) and other Discovery staff preparing for a night sky program

Beyond creating programs, we became deeply familiar with the natural and cultural heritage of Lake Superior Provincial Park. With this new knowledge, exploring the park in our free time became more meaningful. We started sharing our knowledge with our colleagues, friends and family outside of work hours. That’s the kind of “work” we like to take home!

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We made the right decision

After a few years of working for Ontario Parks, we can honestly say we made the right decision. As a highly experienced Senior Park Naturalist and Assistant Park Naturalist, we act as mentors and role models for new students beginning their journey at Ontario Parks.

Jordan and Kelly, standing behind a table, leading a discovery program about camping in the countryside.Jordan and Kelly run a discovery program

We have both focused on specific topics that we are especially passionate about. For Kelly, a love of all things birds of prey and sharing the importance of protecting and conserving the natural landscape. For Jordan, rowing the endless canals of the country’s interior and sharing the unlimited recreational opportunities.

We both recently participated in specialized training with the National Interpretive Association to become Certified Interpretive Guides. Through this training, we gained a deeper understanding of what it means to be an interpreter and how important interpreting is in Ontario parks.

Kelly standing on the shores of Old Woman Bay.Kelly in the old lady’s bay

Throughout our years at Ontario Parks, the most important thing we have learned is that there is always more to learn and therefore more to share.

Dear Future Discovery Staff

As performers, we pride ourselves on our ability to inspire visitors and peers with our dedication and passion for the natural and cultural heritage of Lake Superior Provincial Park and all of Ontario. We love sharing our knowledge with the public and giving them the power to apply it to their lives outside the park.

Kelly, Joey and their father at the Orphan Lake Trail overlookKelly, Joey and their father at the Orphan Lake Trail overlook

We want to inspire young campers to consider Ontario parks as a career path or simply to further explore Ontario’s natural and cultural landscape. We want to show everyone that you can find joy and inspiration anywhere if you slow down and take a moment to look around you. We couldn’t be more proud to be able to shine a light on this joy and inspiration that exists right here in our backyard.

As the park staff were our role models, we aspire to inspire and evoke the same enthusiasm and excitement in our future Discovery employees.

Food to go

If we could offer one piece of advice to young campers, it would be this: you can create a career out of your passion.

Ontario Parks offers a wide range of summer employment opportunities, not only at Discovery, but also in campground maintenance, interior maintenance, gate staff and guards.

You don’t have to work in parks to be passionate about the outdoors. If you are curious, enthusiastic, and willing to gain a deeper understanding of natural and cultural heritage, you can create a lasting connection with the Ontario landscape that can be equally rewarding and memorable.

Kelly and Jordan walk together on their days offKelly and Jordan walk together on their days off

We are inexplicably grateful for the opportunity to live our dream and we thank YOU for giving us countless reasons to stay excited about performing.