Thu. Feb 29th, 2024

Today’s post comes from Jessica Stillman, Bronte Creek Provincial Park School Outreach Coordinator.

Bronte Creek Provincial Park is a unique environment, with rich natural and historical features. As a school outreach coordinator at the park, I get to connect students to this wonderful site daily!

Let me tell you a little about myself and the programs we offer:

A motorhome for life

Growing up, I spent a lot of time camping. My parents are both teachers, which meant we spent the entire summer outdoors. We would pack up our lives for two months and spend them outdoors.

My friends were always baffled by this. “Without television, without Internet, without toilets, what could you do?”

There is a lot to do in a provincial park!

Walking with my mom!

You practice walks and bike rides. You visit the park’s naturalists at the Interpretation Center or join a weekly program. You go swimming and read books on the beach.

And you use your imagination to create wild adventures.

Photos of the staff members' grandparents and her.Left: Grandma and I outdoors. Right: Grandpa and I exploring

Every year, we would camp at our favorite spot with my grandparents around the corner from theirs. My grandparents loved being outdoors and they passed that on to my parents and then to my siblings and me.

We spend time together exploring and observing things big and small. They taught me to appreciate the value of everything, from stinging insects to blood-sucking leeches.

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Growing up in a family of teachers who loved the outdoors, I knew from a young age that I was going to be a teacher too, but I wanted nature to be my classroom.

Starting my career as a naturalist for Ontario parks.

When I turned 16, I began working as a naturalist in the park that I held so dear to my heart. Every day I learned more about nature by teaching others and experiencing it firsthand.

My classroom changed every day too! It could be a sandy beach, a shady forest, or a rocky outcrop. I worked hard to develop new acting skills, so I could tell the story of the park and build strong connections for other people in the park.

I was protecting the place that taught me how to find myself in nature by sharing my passion for the outdoors with others. It came naturally and quickly became more than just a summer job for me.

Fast forward 13 years, through a college degree, new jobs, and countless guided hikes to today, in my role as School Outreach Coordinator at Bronte Creek Provincial Park.

School Programs at Bronte Creek

Did you know that we have been offering park programs to school groups for over 40 years?

Recently, we expanded the program. We wanted to make outdoor education more accessible to everyone and I couldn’t have been more excited to help them achieve that by expanding to in-school programs.

First, I had a lot of new things to learn moving from a northern park to an urban one. Gone are my days talking about travelers or camping in Black Bear country. Instead, I embraced the wonders of life during the Victorian era and farm animals.

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It took a lot of planning, research, and testing the program, but the result is programs that allow children to enjoy nature at their school. We encourage them to get dirty, see something from a new perspective, experience new things, and ask questions. We want students who participate in these programs to be excited, appreciate nature more, and have fun learning.

The time I spent camping, exploring, and generally just being outdoors played a huge role in getting me to where I am today. Spending time outdoors has made me a more well-rounded person. It improves my creativity, inspires me and calms my nerves. The passion I have for the natural world was fostered in me from an early age and now, within my new role, I want to spark that same enthusiasm in a new generation.

Do you want to try one of our programs?

Let me bring my passion and love of nature to your classroom through one of our hands-on, activity-based, and inquiry-based programs that will give your students the opportunity to see nature differently.

Students can enjoy:

  • Brontë Exploration (The Park Experience)
  • Naturalist in the classroom (we come to you)
  • Nature goes digital (video conference with a naturalist)

For more information or to book a school program, click here.