People We Admire

Over the years, Trudi Bennett and Daniel Burton have had the opportunity to meet and work with some incredibly wise members of the nature connection and education worlds. These people have guided Daniel and Trudi, supporting them with skill development, mentoring, inspiration, guidance - or a combination of all of the above. 

The following people are leaders in their fields, experts on their subject matter and have a wealth of experience and wisdom to share with the world. Daniel and Trudi are humbled by the generosity of these individuals and wish to express their gratitude.

Gillian McAuliffe

Gillian was the Founding Principal of Bold Park Community School, in Perth Western Australia. The school was established by parents to provide children from three to eighteen years with the opportunity to engage with a social constructivist learning environment. As the Pedagogista of the school up until 2016, Gill’s role was to provide an educational environment with a firm foundation in nature-based and place-based education. She is now the Director of Practical Wisdom and has also introduced the Perth community to the benefits of ‘Zentangling’ as a way to focus and calm the brain, while developing fine motor skills and creative confidence.

Gill has been an inspiration for our personal educational journeys. As our mentor at Bold Park Community School, Gill has helped us discover the richness in joyful learning that occurs when adults trust and respect a child’s capability, invite them to have ownership in their learning journey, provide opportunities for playful exploration with quality resources and, of course, spend ample time in nature.

Maggie Dent

Maggie Dent is an author, educator, and parenting and resilience specialist with a particular interest in the early years and adolescence. Maggie is a passionate advocate for the healthy, commonsense raising of children in order to strengthen families and communities. She has a broad perspective and range of experience that shapes her work, a slightly irreverent sense of humour and a depth of knowledge based on modern research and ancient wisdom that she shares passionately in a commonsense way.

Maggie inspires us to support children and families to take challenges and to bring back risk and opportunity for authentic play to the lives of Australian children. She also challenges us to take risk ourselves, and that to be a mentor to young people you also have to be willing to challenge yourself. We have had the privilege of attending many public and private workshops and seminars with Maggie and even presenting at a one day conference with her! We truly respect her honest, down to earth approach to mentoring others. We share Maggie’s passion for reducing anxiety and increasing confidence in the young people of Australia.

"A deep and meaningful connection to nature as a child has so many benefits – and is a key underlying philosophy in all my work. It is also one of the reasons I am the patron of Bold Park Community School in Perth. If you are interested as a teacher or a parent how to deepen children’s connection to nature – please check out Educated By Nature! They run programs and activities to give children an opportunity to connect and flourish in the outside world. Well done Daniel and Trudi – brilliant work!" - Maggie Dent.

Claire Warden

Claire is an award-winning lecturer, who now has an international reputation for pioneering work in education. Her key areas of work have focused on motivational maths, consulting children, and children’s connection to the natural world. The skill she has to connect to people wherever she works, and her methodology is being implemented by policy makers in many countries around the world. This in turn inspires governments, lecturers, practitioners, and communities to create high quality education for their children.

While working in outdoor classrooms in primary education settings, we have had many opportunities to work closely with Claire. Through attending workshops, lectures and conferences with Claire, we have been inspired by her work on ‘Benefit Risk Assessment’ - seeing the positive potential outcomes in activities; finding ways to reduce the hazards in these situations while retaining the beneficial risks; strategies to overcome learned helplessness and develop self reliance, especially in very young children; as well as her talent for enthusiastic outdoor adventure stories.

Anna Killigrew and Peter Harrison

Anna and Peter are both Anglican Priests of 22 and 42 years respectively, who live and work at Koora Retreat Centre in Koorarawalyee, Western Australia. The Centre provides a base camp from which to experience the wilderness and explore desert spirituality, alone and in community. Anna has completed training in spiritual direction with the Perth Diocese. She has experience in group dynamics and community building through her years in parish life and her earlier experience as a secondary teacher and industrial and university chaplain. Peter has a long history of providing infrastructure for Wilderness Retreats for groups, having facilitated retreats at nearby Weowanie Rock for 20 years. He was born at Wiluna, in the centre of WA, so has a lifetime of wilderness experience to draw upon.

Trudi considers Koora as her soul’s wellspring and cherishes every visit to strip-back, reconnect, refocus and gain energy and direction in her life. Much of Trudi’s personal and professional journey has been inspired, supported and energised by Anna’s spiritual direction which has provided her with the motivation, passion and courage to connect others with nature for personal and community growth.

Tim Gill

Tim Gill is one of the UK’s leading thinkers on childhood, and an effective advocate for positive change in children’s everyday lives. For over 15 years his writing, research, consultancy projects and other work has focused on the changing nature of childhood, children’s play and free time, and their evolving relationships with the people and places around them.

Tim’s book No Fear: Growing up in a risk averse society, wonderfully highlights the issues surrounding risk in our society. He details the ‘aversion’ to risk that exists in our world today and how despite the litigious nature of society, we need to work as communities to provide children and families with ways to reconnect with nature, with the outside world, with our local community spaces. Tim describes the importance of providing children with opportunities to develop and grow resilience through risk-taking. Having attended international conferences with Tim, Daniel has had the opportunity to explore some of the adventure playgrounds and community gardens of Germany and Denmark.

Kenny Ballentine

Kenny Ballentine is a father to four wild "nature kids", an award-winning filmmaker, and an internationally recognised speaker and trainer. He maintains a steadfast belief in a future where our everyday lives are as immersed in nature as they are in technology... a future where kids and families are living healthier, happier and sustainable lives. Kenny is the Director of the award-winning documentary film "Nature Kids", the founder of the Nature Kids Institute and the host of the Nature Kids Radio podcast. His most recent film, "Estamos Aqui" was honored with a special screening hosted by The White House.

Daniel and Trudi have followed Kenny’s work with the Nature Kids Institute for years and finally had the chance to meet him at a conference and workshop when he visited Melbourne in 2016. Kenny echoes Trudi and Daniel’s passion, advocating for increased connection, more time outdoors and a greater understanding of the impact of nature  and were overjoyed to visit him on their study tour of the USA.

Rusty Keeler

Over the past 20 years, Rusty Keeler has worked with hundreds of community, school, park, university, and childcare leaders to dream, design, and construct beautiful outdoor environments for children in more than 30 states and throughout Canada, Europe, China, Australia, and New Zealand. Keeler is one of the pioneers in the movement to reconnect children to nature and his designs reflect his sincere desire to create a more beautiful world in which to grow and explore. Keeler is the author of the book, Natural Playscapes: Creating Outdoor Play Environments for the Soul (Exchange Press: 2008) and is a frequent keynote speaker and presenter at conferences, communities, and colleges worldwide.

Rusty was inspired by the inaugural International Mud Day held at Bold Park Community School and made a pact to bring this event (in epic proportions) to his community at the Ithaca Children’s Garden, when Daniel and Trudi saw the scale of Ithaca’s Mud Day they instantly knew they had to make contact with Rusty. They attended workshops with Rusty in Australia and then made it part of their mission to visit Ithaca and his amazing space. They didn’t quite get there to see a Mud Day, but were inspired non the less by the way Rusty and his team say ‘Yes’ to children and advocate for real play.

Toni and Robin Christie

Toni is the Director of Childspace Early Childhood Institute, and holds a Masters degree in Education. She oversees the professional development programmes, personnel, and edits The Space magazine. Robin, with both an Early Childhood Education and Fine Arts background, is responsible for all the design and maintenance of the Childspace environments. As a team, Robin 

Robin and Toni have presented seminars and workshops to both national and international audiences on the topics of environment design, management, leadership, early childhood education curriculum and programming, infants and toddlers and storytelling and science.

Every moment spent in the company of Toni and Robin is an exhilarating experience. Their energy, passion, knowledge and experience is mind blowing and so inspirational – you cannot come away from sitting in a workshop or conference presentation of theirs without a smile on your face and a fire in your belly. In their time as classroom teachers, Daniel and Trudi have been very privileged to have had the opportunity to work closely with both Toni and Robin developing wild spaces, attending conference presentations and a ukulele training retreat. They are amazing individuals, but together they make a stellar team!

Geoff Falyn and Lyndsay Dawkins

Lyndsay Dawkins and Jeff Falyn created Nature's Theater in 2006. It grew out of their desire to offer kids a fulfilling and fun experience in the outdoors. Since then, more than ten thousand children have participated in Outdoor Quest stories, Stage Shows and used the Outdoor Activity Cards.  Adults and teenagers have loved connecting children to the Natural world with Nature's Theater stories.  

Educated by Nature programs call on the performing arts to bring creativity and energy into the outdoor environment. The storyteller is an important role to all programs - Jeff and Lyndsay from Nature’s Theatre have a wonderful way of combining storytelling, theatrical characterisation and environmental stewardship. They were also extremely generous in opening up their home when Daniel and Trudi visited their hometown in California in 2016.

Helle Nebelong

Helle Nebelong is a Danish Landscape Architect and has a Master of Public Management. She is especially passionate about designing spaces for children and how to adapt and improve the city for everyday life. Helle is internationally recognised for her special philosophy and as a designer of nature play spaces where children thrive. She’s a key pioneer of the natural playground movement, which advocates for using local materials and materials found on site, such as branches or sawn-down trees, big stones and objects from the real world, rather than artificial materials, fixed equipment and bright colours, and not necessarily cordoning off playgrounds from the rest of a park. Some of her best known projects in Copenhagen are The Garden of Senses in Faelledparken and the Nature Playground in Valbyparken.

Daniel was inspired by Helle’s work when she visited Bold Park Community School and worked with his class of 5 and 6 year olds as they were designing the school’s Early Childhood Wild Space (Outdoor Classroom). Daniel was further inspired by Helle’s passion for designing spaces that creatively combine children’s passion for play with nature’s inspiration at the 2014 Nordic Adventure Conference in Copenhagen where he had the opportunity to visit Valbyparken and play in it himself!

Dr Trevor Parry

As a developmental paediatrician, Dr Trevor Parry has dedicated more than 30 years to improving the health and wellbeing of Western Australian children. During his career in public medicine, he has practised and promoted the benefits of prevention and early intervention in child health.

He is committed to educating community groups about the importance of early childhood development and enhancing the skills and confidence of families to give their children the best start in life. 

Dr Trevor Parry is an incredible inspiration and after hearing him speak back in 2014, Daniel has loved his message of ‘Early IS Early’. Dr Parry reminds us that we need to take advantage of the crucial years of development and that so much learning, development, knowledge forming and social and emotional connection occurs long before children enter a classroom. His passion for family connection and the old adage ‘it takes a whole village to raise a child’ aligns so strongly with Educated by Nature’s mission and principles for nature connection.

Angela Hanscom

Angela Hanscom is a pediatric occupational therapist and the founder of TimberNook – an award-winning nature-based program that has gained international popularity. She holds a master’s degree in occupational therapy, and an undergraduate degree in kinesiology (the study of movement) with a concentration in health fitness. Angela’s book, Balanced & Barefoot: How Unrestricted Outdoor Play Makes for Strong, Confident, and Capable Children, (New Harbinger Press, 2016) discusses the effects of restricted movement and lack of outdoor playtime on overall sensory and motor development in children. 

Trudi and Daniel felt like they were singing from the same song book as Angela when they read Balanced and Barefoot. When Daniel had an opporutnity to meet Angela in Sydney, it confirmed how closely the Timbernook programs resonate with the essence of Educated by Nature. Angela is an absolute inspiration to Educated by Nature.