EPIC’s Learning Team

Teacher

A BC Ministry Certified teacher onsite with children two days per week. They oversee home learning component, SLP and be the interface with NIDES.

Catie Bainbridge (she/her) is a white settler with Irish, French, and English ancestry. She is a storytelling, bone collecting, cloud watching, mud playing child-at-heart who recently moved back to Lekwungen territory (Victoria) from Sinixt Territory (Nelson). 

Catie began working in the field of mental wellness and addiction recovery five years ago. In that work, she witnessed adults become reconnected with themselves in the safe hands of nature. Integral to her teaching practice is nourishing these connections with children so that their relationships with themselves and their communities stay strong. She believes that every being should have a place in nature where they can feel held as they grow and that our families, communities, and environment can heal and flourish if we learn to love and listen to the land again.

Her first teaching experience was working in a bioregional forest school located at PKOLS in the 2018-19 school year. It was there that she learned so much about the world from the candid wisdom of children in nature. She holds a B.C. Teaching Certificate and is learning about place-conscious, inquiry-based learning models with an emphasis on indigenous principles, identity development, and anti-racist pedagogy.

Megan Grupe (she/her) is an ocean-lover, forest bather, mountain climber, and lover of forming communities with kids (and adults!) in nature. She is a white settler of Swiss & Scottish heritage who was born on Kalapuya territory in Oregon. Having spent the last decade and a half living up and down the west coast of North and Central America, she has fallen in love with nature-connection and navigating these spaces with others from the rainforests of Costa Rica, to the kelp forests of sunny San Diego, the rocky intertidal of the Pacific Northwest, and most recently the Coast Salish territories of Greater Victoria. 

With a goofy, patient, empathetic, kind, gracious, and warm motherly energy she comes at teaching with curiosity and delight, believing that she acts as both a facilitator and participant in the learning environment. She holds a Bachelors in Marine Biology & Environmental Science from University of Oregon and a Masters in Education from University San Diego, California and is a B.C. certified teacher. Most recently she is engaging in learning around decolonial and nature-connected teaching through the Child & Nature Alliance. All of these experiences have contributed to her passion and love of teaching while thinking critically about how to create harmonious learning environments with organic rhythm and flow that channel the diversity and beauty each human brings to the learning community. Much of her classroom teaching background is with teaching math and science to middle school and high school aged humans, but she has worked in outdoor education with humans of all ages and also with families to create learning at home. She has also done a multitude of training around teaching mindfulness, yoga, and self-compassion practices to littles and loves to incorporate this into her teaching style.

Outside of being a teacher, she calls herself mom to a beautiful, lively, and creative 3 year old daughter and wife to a tall avid gardener and deep sea biologist. She is very much looking forward to meeting and working with each and every one of you to create and build community together.

Mentors

Additional educators, specifically with outdoor wilderness awareness training. A mentor is present onsite all 3 days.

Erica (she/her) is a passionate environmental educator who has been teaching nature programs in Lekwungen Territory (Victoria, BC) for the last five years. She graduated from UVic with a BA in Anthropology and Environmental Studies, combining her two biggest passions – people and nature!

From teaching ecological restoration to organizing Girl Guide camps to leading nature programs for school groups and home learners at the Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary, Erica has a varied history of connecting others to the wonders of our natural environment. She is also the School Programs Coordinator at the HCP Gardens and loves connecting to others with their hands deep in the soil. 

You can often find Erica cycling around the city, working in her garden, playing disc golfing, singing in her choir, camping along the west coast or even cuddling her snake – Albert Steven! 

Mitch (He/They) is a goofy, mud-loving, tree-climbing, bike-riding, adventure having big kid. His favourite word is wholesome and it has become a guiding principle in all things: wholesome friends, wholesome community, and wholesome fun. He was born in Tk’emlúps but moved west to study Geography and Spanish at UVic. After finishing his first degree he discovered that working with kids is his true passion and began a Bachelor of Education. 

He strives to support an inclusive learning community where the contributions of all are equally acknowledged and celebrated together. By holding space for each other, we build self-confidence and feel supported to pursue our interests. He believes that it is his role to facilitate learning opportunities for students to grow as individuals and follow their natural curiosities, and it is his hope to learn alongside them. 

His first experience with outdoor education took place in a nature kindergarten. His heart felt full as he saw firsthand how learning and play were interwoven and subjects like math and art and physical education blended together. Mitch takes a holistic approach to learning and thinks that education should reflect the interconnectedness of our world. There is no better place to see those connections than nature! Each flora and fauna friend has a story and deep relationships with each other. As we learn and play in nature, we discover those relationships and find our own place in relation to them.

Outside of EPIC, Mitch takes great joy in learning new skills, barefoot gardening, crocheting, sewing, crawling through caves, cycling, photography, and hiking. 

 

My name is Rue McDonald M.A. (they/them) I am a placed-based outdoor educator with elementary aged students and adults. In my other work, I offer spiritual and grief support through ancestor connection, lineage healing and cultural reclamation. My learning facilitation practice seeks to offer tools for development of the intuition, nature connection, empathy and resiliency building for learning communities seeking to collectively grow in wisdom, groundedness and capacity for decolonial healing in times of great change and uncertainty.

I am a researcher, plant tender, songster, story weaver bard, queer animist witch and place-based environmental educator. I have Scottish, Irish, Cornish, Welsh and Scandinavian ancestry.

I also have 8 years of teaching experience with a variety of ages and am a certified Forest School Practitioner through the Child and Nature Alliance. Most recently, I have taught nature-based programming though my buisness Queer Directions Learning Center, The Heartwood Learning Community in Vic West and the Royal BC Museum.

I hold a bachelors with honours from Queens University in Global Development and Indigenous Studies and a Masters of Arts in Indigenous Governance from The University of Victoria.

You can learn about me and my work here:
IG @queerdirections  
Podcast Airmid’s Almanac (podbean.com)

Shelly (she/her) is from Victoria located on unceded territory of the Lekwungen peoples. She has worked at a Waldorf preschool on Salt Spring Island for the past two years, while doing her Waldorf ECE certification through West Coast institute. During this time, she has come to value alternative means of education in a world saturated by phones and technology. She admires the Waldorf system’s focus on the child’s imagination and the integrating of arts with natural materials. Shelly values this holistic means of education and knows the importance of children’s relationship with playing outdoors and being connected with the land, and believes it is vital for a child’s development in creating a social change through education. In her spare time, Shelly enjoys painting, felting puppets, cooking and trying new recipes and spending time in nature.

Student Mentors

A practicum student, from the University of Victoria Child and Youth Care Program is
onsite 3 days a week. They spend 3-4 months with the community to complete their course requirements.

Bridgit Nutting (she/her) is a painter, mountain-climber, ocean-swimmer, surfer, lover of sports, animals, art and music.

Born in Calgary, Alberta but raised in California, she quickly fell in love with the warm weather, beaches and rainforests offered by the Lekwungen territory of Victoria when she moved to the island 4 years ago.

She is going into her 5th year of her Child and Youth Care degree at UVic, with a plan to take a post degree in education in order to reach her dreams of becoming a teacher and coach.

Hi there! My name is Francisco Anton Pacheco (he/him) and I’m excited for the opportunity to learn with EPIC for my fourth year practicum with the University of Victoria. I was born in the Philippines and spent the first ten years of my life there, moving to Canada in 2010. My family moved to Vancouver, eventually and I kind of went from school to school. We finally ended up in Pitt Meadows before I graduated from high school and moved to Victoria as a Child and Youth Care student at UVic. I am the eldest of three and I’ve always loved playing with kids so the thought of working with them came rather naturally.

I’m excited for this chance to expand my professional experience working with kids. In the past, I’ve worked as an assistant teacher in a daycare, working with younger kids aged 2-5 and school aged kids up to the age of 9. During the pandemic, I also worked as an emergency worker with the Red Cross which has given me a lot of valuable experiences, especially with the elderly. Now that I’m back in Victoria, I’m intrigued by the notion of outdoor education and excited to have nature be such an active part of my everyday routine. I hope to learn lots both from the kids and the staff at EPIC and can’t thank them enough for having me! 

Outside of work I love to hike and play video games. I’ve been an avid lover of all things Pokemon since the age of 5 and am happy to say that that love isn’t anywhere close to burning out. I also love to read and have usually 10+ tabs on my phone for stories I ‘will read eventually’, some of those tabs are months old. Thanks for having me!

Guides

Parents and forest community members are invited to be involved onsite with EPIC. They can also facilitate workshops for learners and the EPIC community