The Nature School

Now at FOUR GTA Locations!


Registration for 2024-2025 is now OPEN

Toronto and Region Conservation Authority’s (TRCA) The Nature School provides an alternative form of education designed to deliver the benefits of an inquiry, experiential, play, and place-based education while learning in an outdoor setting.

VIEW THE NATURE SCHOOL FAQS

TRCA Nature School student learns practical skills while enjoying nature
TRCA Nature School student encounters a crayfish in a local stream
TRCA Nature School student enjoys outdoor learning on a winter afternoon

The Nature School Programs

Junior School (Grades 3-6)

Junior School
Grades 3 to 6

Nature School junior student enjoys outdoor learning activities

Students are placed in a multi-age grade: an approach to education in which students are treated as individuals and their skills are built from the starting point of where they are at, rather than what grade they are in.

Cost: SEE TUITION FEES

Junior School is offered at:

 

Primary School (SK-Grade 3)

Primary School
Senior Kindergarten to Grade 3

Nature School primary students and teacher encounter a large snapping turtle on a forest trail

Students are placed in a multi-age grade: an approach to education in which students are treated as individuals and their skills are built from the starting point of where they are at, rather than what grade they are in.

Cost: SEE TUITION FEES

Primary School is offered at:

 

KPAL Program (JK/SK)

KPAL Program
Junior/Senior Kindergarten

students in The Nature School KPAL program enjoy outdoor activities

Our KPAL program is for students in Junior and Senior Kindergarten. This full-day program focuses on play-based learning that is driven by student curiosity and outdoor fun.

Cost: SEE TUITION FEES

The KPAL program is offered at:

 

Preschool Program (Ages 2.5-5)

Preschool Program

student in The Nature School Preschool program enjoys outdoor activities

The Nature School Preschool uses a child-led approach to learning that is exploratory, inquiry-based, fun and unhurried.

Children interact with the natural environment through the use of loose parts, creative play, shelter building, whittling wood, cooking on an open fire, knots, making woodland crafts and sharing stories.

The Preschool program is offered to children 2.5 to 5 years of age who are potty trained.

Cost: SEE TUITION FEES

The Preschool program is offered at:

 

Weekend Program (Ages 2.5-Grade 6)

Weekend Program
Preschool/Primary/Junior

students in The Nature School weekend program enjoy outdoor adventure

Each day begins with an adventure in a woodland setting. Children interact with the natural environment through the use of loose parts, creative play, shelter building, whittling wood, cooking on an open fire, knots, making woodland crafts, and sharing stories.

This child-led approach to learning is exploratory, inquiry-based, fun, and unhurried.

Cost: SEE TUITION FEES

The Weekend Program is offered at:

 

The Nature School Locations

Claireville Conservation Area
Brampton, ON

Nature School students explore a forest trail at Claireville Conservation Area
Nature School student at Claireville Conservation Area uses a magnifying lens to study a seed ball
student at the Claireville Nature School holds a small frog found near a pond

The Nature School at Claireville takes place primarily outside on Claireville Conservation Area‘s 848-hectares property, with access to a wide variety of natural ecosystems and accessible trails.

Students will have use of the Claireville Education Centre, which includes a private indoor learning space in case of inclement weather.

Claireville Conservation Area is located at 8180 Highway 50, Brampton, ON | MAP + DIRECTIONS

REGISTER FOR THE NATURE SCHOOL AT CLAIREVILLE:

Junior School
Wednesdays | September to June | 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
REGISTER NOW
Primary School
Mondays/Tuesdays | September to June | 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
REGISTER NOW
KPAL Program
Fridays | September to June | 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
REGISTER NOW
Preschool Program
Mondays/Tuesdays | September to June | 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
REGISTER NOW

QUESTIONS?
Please contact Jasmine Green: jasmine.green@trca.ca.

Meet the Claireville Staff
Adrian ODriscoll Adrian O’Driscoll, Senior Manager, Community Outreach & Education
Adrian O’Driscoll is an experienced administrative professional working with environmental professionals, teachers, and educators in developing and delivering environmental educational programs and experiences for students and families. Adrian has worked with TRCA for 25 years and is currently Senior Manager, Community Outreach & Education, managing the Peel Community Learning team and Kortright Centre for Conservation, in addition to overseeing the education teams and programming operating out of Claireville Conservation Area. Adrian has four children, enjoys canoeing, skiing, and hiking, and is the principal for The Nature School.
Jasmine Green Jasmine Green, Supervisor, Claireville Education, OCT
Jasmine has been an outdoor educator for more than 15 years. With a B.Ed in Outdoor and Experiential Education, a Forest School Practitioners Certificate, and general love and enthusiasm for bringing kids outside, she has helped to develop and deliver nature programming for children of all ages. Jasmine has worked at The Tawingo Outdoor Education Centre, The Toronto Botanical Gardens, and The Kortright Centre for Conservation. She is excited to bring her passion for the outdoors to The Nature School at Claireville. Jasmine believes that there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. When she’s not teaching other people’s offspring, she spends her time raising her own adventurous kids, taking them hiking, camping, and exploring!
Ken MacGillivray Ken MacGillivray, Teacher, The Nature School, OCT
Ken grew up in Etobicoke but spent his childhood weekends and summers at his family’s cottage on Lake Huron on the Bruce Peninsula. He went to York University to become a teacher, and then to Humber College for a Certificate of Outdoor Education. Ken briefly worked at a museum near his cottage, then at a YMCA camp in a National Park. Finally, he worked for two years as a primary school teacher at a reserve in Northwestern Ontario. Ken started his time with Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) as an environmental educator at the Kortright Centre, and he has been working for TRCA ever since. Ken enjoys camping, hiking, canoeing and birdwatching, and he still spends a lot of time at his family’s cottage. He also has a passion for conservation and volunteers with the Canadian Chestnut Council.
Betty de Groot Betty de Groot, Educator, The Nature Preschool
Betty de Groot’s love for nature began on the farm where she grew up, in rural Bolton. As a child she knew she wanted to be a teacher, and she was educated in the Trent-Queens Concurrent Education program. Betty spent 31 years teaching elementary school children in Toronto, Brampton and Caledon. She especially enjoyed her kindergarteners, whose love for nature and sense of wonder never ceased. Betty was also a leader of her schools’ Eco Team. For 21 years, she learned and shared with her various enthusiastic members what it means to value our precious home, the Earth. From community clean-ups, to bike rodeos, to butterfly garden building, the experience led her and the students to know the beauty and joy of being outdoors. Betty looks forward to welcoming all children in outdoor settings to explore, and challenge themselves and experience wonder in nature.

 

 

Claremont Nature Centre
Pickering, ON

Nature School students explore a stream at Claremont Nature Centre

The Nature School at Claremont takes place primarily outside at Claremont Nature Centre‘s 160-hectare property in the Durham Region. The pristine Duffins Creek runs through the property, which is flanked by valley slopes of mixed woodland and open meadows.

Students will have use of Claremont’s panabode cedar log building, which features a spacious lounge, wood-burning fireplace, dining area, and classroom.

Claremont Nature Centre is located at 4290 Westney Rd N, Pickering, ON | MAP + DIRECTIONS

REGISTER FOR THE NATURE SCHOOL AT CLAREMONT:

Junior School
Wednesdays | September to June | 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
REGISTER NOW
Primary School
Mondays/Tuesdays | September to June | 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
REGISTER NOW
KPAL Program
Fridays | September to June | 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
REGISTER NOW

QUESTIONS?
Please contact thenatureschool@trca.ca.

 

Kortright Centre for Conservation
Vaughan, ON

student at the Kortright Nature School learns to cross country ski on a winter day
students at the Kortright Nature School trundle a wheelbarrow full of rocks and soil
Nature School student at Kortright displays a tie-dyed banner that says SECRET FORT

The Nature School at Kortright takes place primarily outside on Kortright Centre for Conservation‘s 555-acre property, with access to a wide variety of natural ecosystems, accessible trails and multiple facilities.

Students have use of a 30,000 square-foot Visitor Centre, which includes a private indoor learning space in case of inclement weather.

Kortright Centre for Conservation is located at 9550 Pine Valley Drive, Woodbridge, ON | MAP + DIRECTIONS

REGISTER FOR THE NATURE SCHOOL AT KORTRIGHT:

Junior School
Thursdays | September to June | 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
REGISTER NOW
Primary School
1-5 Days per Week | September to June | 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
REGISTER NOW
KPAL Program
Mondays | September to June | 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
REGISTER NOW
Preschool Program
Wed/Thurs/Fri | September to June | 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
REGISTER NOW
Summer Preschool: July
Wednesdays, July 3, 10, 17 & 24 | 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
REGISTER NOW
Summer Preschool: August
Wednesdays, August 7, 14, 21 & 28 | 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
REGISTER NOW
Weekend Program (Preschool): July
Saturdays, July 6, 13, 20 & 27 | 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.
REGISTER NOW
Weekend Program (Preschool): August
Saturdays, August 3, 10, 17 & 24, | 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.
REGISTER NOW
Weekend Program (Preschool): Fall
Saturdays, Sept 14 to Nov 9 | 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
REGISTER NOW
Weekend Program (Preschool): Fall
Sundays, Sept 15 to Nov 10 | 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
REGISTER NOW
Weekend Program (Primary): Fall
Saturdays, Sept 14 to Nov 9 | 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.
REGISTER NOW
Weekend Program (Primary): Fall
Sundays, Sept 15 to Nov 10 | 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.
REGISTER NOW
Weekend Program (Junior): Fall
Sundays, Sept 15 to Nov 10 | 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.
REGISTER NOW

QUESTIONS?
Please contact Rachel Stewart: rachel.stewart@trca.ca.

Meet the Kortright Staff
Adrian ODriscoll Adrian O’Driscoll, Senior Manager, Community Outreach & Education
Adrian O’Driscoll is an experienced administrative professional working with environmental professionals, teachers, and educators in developing and delivering environmental educational programs and experiences for students and families. Adrian has worked with TRCA for 25 years and is currently Senior Manager, Community Outreach & Education, managing the Peel Community Learning team and Kortright Centre for Conservation, in addition to overseeing the education teams and programming operating out of Claireville Conservation Area. Adrian has four children, enjoys canoeing, skiing, and hiking, and is the principal for The Nature School.
Heather Stafford Heather Stafford, Supervisor, Kortright Education, OCT
Heather is an Ontario Certified Teacher and certified Forest School Practitioner. She has been with TRCA for more than 10 years, and has been part of the Education team at the Kortright Centre since 2012. Prior to joining TRCA, Heather worked at several other outdoor education centres and summer camps around Ontario, both delivering hands-on, exciting, nature-based programming and coordinating, supervising, and managing programs and staff. Heather has two young children as well as several fuzzy and scaly pets.
Kelly Hosier Kelly Hosier, Teacher, The Nature School, OCT
Kelly is a dedicated individual who holds a deep love and appreciation for the land where she plays, learns, and works. Throughout her life, she has been a committed lifelong learner, she is a certified OCT teacher, she is always open to new experiences and willing to unlearn in order to learn when necessary. Her existence revolves around her close connection with the land, which she both loves and respects. In Kelly’s life, engaging with nature is not just a choice but a fundamental necessity. Activities such as forest bathing, camping, hiking, paddling, and swimming serve as essential aspects of her life, allowing her to slow down, unwind, and find inner peace, which she then spreads to the people around her. One of Kelly’s primary goals is to inspire her students, family, colleagues, community, and friends to immerse themselves in nature and take risks to become lifelong lovers of the environment and life itself. She believes in the transformative power of nature and is dedicated to sharing this passion with others.
Kelly’s life journey is a beautiful balance between the pursuit of new challenges and the serenity she finds in the natural world. Her commitment to lifelong learning and her unwavering love for nature will hopefully help guide the young minds of our youth.
Rachel Stewart Rachel Stewart, Teacher, Kortright Programs, OCT
Rachel started her career at TRCA at Kortright, teaching outdoor education to school groups and finding her happy place as a teacher after a number of years teaching in a classroom. After seven years at Kortright she moved to a program manager role, managing programs such as Peel EcoSchools and Monarch Nation before returning to Kortright in 2023 in a teacher role. She is thrilled to be working with early years programs at Kortright and remains passionate about connecting children and young people with the outdoors, seeing this as a vital brick in the wall we must build to combat climate change. Rachel is also a qualified music teacher and takes every chance she can to weave music into her environmental work.
Julia Marks Julia Marks, Education Interpreter, The Nature School, RECE
Julia grew up just a few minutes away from the Kortright Centre and has fond memories of visiting as a young student. Over the years, she developed a love for the outdoors, and enjoys being active and spending time in nature. While pursuing her studies in early childhood education, Julia completed a student placement at Kortright. After graduating, she began working at the centre as a camp counsellor, and is now the Preschool teacher for The Nature School. Julia is a Registered Early Childhood Educator and is completing the Forest and Nature School Practitioner course. She loves helping children learn and grow in a way that connects them to nature and the world around them.
Education Interpreters
Weekend programs are delivered by Kortright’s crew of qualified Education Interpreters. Our Education Interpreters have degrees in Environmental Science, Biology, Geography, Education, and other related fields. They receive extensive program training including training on child-led learning, nature-based and risky play. They are well versed in dynamic risk assessment and health and safety policies. These staff also sometimes support our weekday Nature School programming. They each bring their own passion for outdoor play and learning to the Nature School at Kortright.

 

 

Toronto Zoo
Toronto, ON

students at the Toronto Zoo Nature School enjoy outdoor learning activities
students at the Toronto Zoo Nature School enjoy outdoor learning activities
students at the Toronto Zoo Nature School learn all about the lives of animals

The Nature School at the Toronto Zoo takes place primarily outdoors at the largest zoo in Canada, on the Toronto Zoo’s more than 500-acre property.

Students will have access to the zoo’s outdoor learning areas and pavilions, the Kids Zoo area, the seven zoogeographic regions, and natural areas and trails on the property not available to the public.

In the event of inclement weather, students will have a private indoor learning space located at the African Pavilion.

The Toronto Zoo is located at 2000 Meadowvale Road, Toronto, ON | MAP + DIRECTIONS

REGISTER FOR THE NATURE SCHOOL AT TORONTO ZOO:

Primary School
1-5 Days per Week | September to June | 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
REGISTER NOW

QUESTIONS?
Please contact thenatureschool@trca.ca.

SPECIAL OFFER

In celebration of the Toronto Zoo’s 50th anniversary and the unveiling of this new school, TRCA is pleased to provide the following early registrant benefits to the first 50 enrollments*:

*Limit of 50 Toronto Zoo memberships and TRCA Conservation Parks memberships available until July 31, 2024 or while supplies last. Only one Family Zoo and one TRCA Parks Family membership per family regardless of the number of children or days enrolled. $200 discount can be applied to each day of the week a student is registered for and is only available to the first 50 registrations. Registration is defined as each day of the week purchased for the program’s duration.

Tuition Fees

student at the Kortright Nature School enjoys a mug of hot chocolate on a cool autumn day

The Nature School can be booked on a per day basis. When applying, parents may choose anywhere from one to five individual days (one or two for preschool).

You will be asked to indicate your preference of specific days of the week when completing the booking form.

PROGRAM
September to June
TUITION
Claireville, Claremont, Kortright
TUITION
Toronto Zoo
Junior, Primary, KPAL: 1 Day/Week $3,300 $3,680
Primary: 2 Days/Week $6,600 $7,360
Primary: 3 Days/Week $9,900 $11,040
Primary: 4 Days/Week $13,200 $14,720
Primary: 5 Days/Week $16,500 $18,400
Preschool: 1 Day/Week* $2,000 N/A
Preschool: 2 Days/Week* $4,000 N/A
Weekend Program** $385 N/A

*Offered at Claireville and Kortright only.
**Offered at Kortright only.

2024-2025 School Calendar

Dates Notes
First Week of School September 9-13 Classes begin:
Claireville, Claremont, Kortright
September 16-20 Classes begin:
Toronto Zoo
Thursday September 26 No School – PA Day
Friday September 27 No School – PA Day
Monday October 14 No School – Stat Holiday
Tuesday November 5 No School – PA Day
Wednesday December 11 No School – PA Day
Winter Break December 23-January 3 No School – Winter Break
Monday February 17 No School – Stat Holiday
Tuesday February 18 No School – PA Day
Wednesday February 26 No School – PA Day
March Break March 10- 14 No School – March Break
Friday April 18 No School – Stat Holiday
Thursday April 24 No School – PA Day
Monday May 19 No School – Stat Holiday
Last Week of School June 9-13 Classes end

 

Mission Statement

To provide a supportive outdoor student-led learning environment that empowers, motivates and develops the whole child.

Nature School students at Claremont enjoy outdoor learning activities
Nature School student at Claremont enjoys outdoor learning activities

Our Values

Take Risks

Provide opportunities to build a student’s innate motivation, confidence and skills to take supported risks within a nurturing environment where it is safe to fail.

Educate the Whole Person

Develop the physical, social, cognitive, linguistic, emotional, social, and spiritual aspects in our students and promoting their holistic development by linking school experiences to students’ life experiences.

Student-Led

Support student development through the use of learning approaches that motivate students to develop theories, questions and ideas that build critical skills in the learning process.

Environmental Stewardship

Utilize the diverse habitats that exists in the natural learning environment to foster a connection with and develop an appreciation for the natural environment.

Learning Approaches and Curriculum

Nature School students encounter a large snapping turtle on a forest trail
Nature School student holds up a piece of litter found in a stream at Claremont Nature Centre

Teachers use a student-led, inquiry-based approach when developing lessons.

Teachers facilitate student learning through providing a variety of tools, resources, and experiences that guide students to find answers to their own questions. This helps build confidence, self-reliance, and independent thinking skills.

The methods used by our teachers include:

  • Inquiry-based: A dynamic and emergent process that builds on students’ natural curiosity about the world in which they live.
  • Play-based: Recognizes the integral role of play in a child’s development. This approach engages the whole child by encouraging a depth of experience and treating a child’s emotional, physical, and social selves as interwoven.
  • Experiential learning: Learning that is based on students being directly involved in a learning experience rather than being taught pre-determined lesson plans. Students learn through and reflect on their learning experiences.
  • Place-based: The act of connecting children to a particular place through direct experiential contact.

At The Nature School, students learn language arts, mathematics, science, social studies, physical education, visual arts, music and drama through these learning approaches.

Cancellation Policy

Tuition fees are paid monthly. A non-refundable deposit is due upon registration and will be used to offset the last month of the scheduled school program.

If you wish to cancel your child’s registration prior to the scheduled end date of the school program, we require 30 days written notice by email to vservices@trca.ca. Fees will be prorated and charged for the notice period and the deposit will be forfeited. If you wish to re-enroll your child after cancelling, a new deposit will be due.

There are no refunds for school days missed or not participating in school activities.

Minimum registration numbers are required in order for The Nature School to operate. In the event The Nature School must cancel due to low registration numbers a full refund for the cancelled days will be issued.

School Closure Policy

In the event that The Nature School is closed to in-person learning due to a government order, including but not limited to reasons of COVID-19 related restrictions, The Nature School will reduce tuition fees by 50% and will move to online learning.

For Nature Preschool, online learning will not exceed three weeks in duration, at which time tuition fees will not be charged. For Nature Primary School, online learning will not exceed five weeks in duration. Withdrawals during school closures will follow the cancellation policy above.