646-450-6672

82-96 116th Street, Kew Gardens, NY 11418

©2018 by Kew Kids

John Muir, Mountaineer

"In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks."

 

Achievements/Interests:

  • Proud mom to 2 boys, one born in 2015 and one born in 2017

  • Super Steward and Trail Maintainer, NYC Parks

  • Outdoor Teacher Retreat Participant, Eastern Region Association of Forest and Nature Schools

  • Health & Safety Training, NYS Office of Children and Family Services

  • Outdoor adventure seeker and traveler

  • Health and fitness enthusiast: Personal Trainer, Crunch Fitness; Group Fitness Instructor, Aerobics Fitness and Association of America

  • Project Management Professional

  • MBA

JESSICA HALSRUD

Founder and Director

As a girl growing up in suburban Taiwan, I loved to explore outdoors, often playing in the nearby trails and creeks.  I wandered those woods even in my dreams.  Later, some of those fields became construction sites where my sister and I would play for hours in the mud.  Looking back, this all seems like another world. 

 

Within the space of a few decades, the way children understand and experience nature has changed radically.  For the new generation, nature is more abstraction than reality, something to watch, to consume, to wear—to ignore and fear.  So often, I've observed kids looking at screens, oblivious to the landscape around them.  I've also heard the parks nearby viewed as dirty, dangerous and something to avoid.

 

Now that I have children of my own, I am even more aware of the increasing divide between the young and the natural world, and the environmental, social, psychological and spiritual implications of that change.  The accumulating research confirms the necessity of contact with nature for healthy child and adult development.  Our community, so close to Forest Park yet, lacks a nature early education option.  It is my hope that with our forest school, we’d be able to get our children in contact with nature and back on the trails. 

Our mothers were right when they told us, day after day, ‘Go out and play.’

 

Lead Teacher

SARAH TEPLY

Born in New York City and raised near Van Cortland Park in Riverdale, I spent most of my childhood outside exploring, fascinated by all living things. Collecting bugs, bird watching
along the Hudson, horseback riding in Van Cortland Park, and spending weekends at the natural history museum, botanical gardens or the zoos and local parks.  Every summer I looked forward to the annual family road trip to Canada where I would spend three to four months off the grid in our farm house nestled in the forest.  Everyday rain or shine was spent outside,  rowing our own vegetables, herbs and berries, chopping firewood, hiking or biking in the forest, fishing, clamming, swimming and warming up with a nightly bonfire on the beach.
My early experiences growing up immersed in the outdoors fostered a deep love and respect for nature and all living things, and relying on mother nature for survival showed me how
everything in our world is connected and reliant on a delicate balance.


I studied media and environmental science focusing on sustainable development at Hunter College where I received my BA, and spent weekends volunteering with City Harvest, Million Trees NYC and teaching yoga to children with disabilities through Project Happy.  In 2017 I joined the Teach For America Pre-K New York Corps and trained as a lead teacher at Escuela Hispana Montessori before joining Children’s Aid Society where I taught ages 2-4, as well as students with special needs.  Not every child has the opportunity to experience the wonders of the great outdoors, and remembering my early experiences growing up surrounded by and seeking out nature has led me to join Kew Kids.  Now more than ever children need opportunities to connect with our natural world and I am proud to be a part of their experiences teaching and shaping unique programs at Kew Kids Forest School.

Achievements/Interests:

  • Million Trees NYC Steward

  • Super Steward and Trail Maintainer, NYC Parks

  • 200 HR Yoga Teacher Training

  • PADI Open Water Diver Certified

  • OCFS Health and Safety Certified

  • Photographer

  • Animal lover

  • Plant based cooking

Achievements/Interests:

  • Proud mom to 2 boys, one born in 2015 and one born in 2018

  • Chair, Sierra Club NYC Inspiring Connections Outdoors

  • Super Steward and Trail Maintainer, NYC Parks

  • Wilderness First Aid Certified

  • Outdoor Leadership Training leader Instructor since 2012

  • Child Abuse Recognition & Prevention certified

  • Participant of Free Forest School and Hike It Baby Queens

  • Hiking & Fitness enthusiast

  • Admin, Strong & Healthy moms facebook group

  • Committee, Adventure Film Festival NYC

KATIE GEORGE

Lead Teacher 

As the daughter of a Navy serviceman, I grew up exploring the world and the seeds of my wanderlust were planted early.  It became evident at an early age that empathy and kindness could be found whenever someone takes an opportunity to challenge themselves and break a little out of the routine.

 

In my adulthood, this wanderlust led to international backpacking and ultimately to Peru, and in preparation for the 4-day hike on the Inca Trail, I fell in love with hiking and the woods.  Living in New York city, I was delighted to find that nearly 100 trails could be found within an hour or two of the city, and I set out to explore as many of them as I could find.

 

In 2012, I became Chair of the NYC group of Sierra Club’s Inspiring Connections Outdoors whose focus is to introduce urban youth to the great outdoors by bringing them out hiking, rafting, camping, ice skating, apple picking, kayaking, and more.  In our 100% volunteer-run setting, we are able to provide opportunities and access to these youth (grade school through high school) that they would not have had otherwise.  I have been able to see first hand the positive impact nature has had on these youth, breaking them out of their comfort zone, disconnecting from technology, overcoming new challenges, discovering new things, and forming new relationships.  

 

As a mom to a 3 ½ year old and a 6 month old, I have been delighted to watch them interact with nature, whether through discovering a new plant or hiking through the woods with friends.  The 3 ½ year old especially has developed confidence, strength and stability through interacting with the forest, and it is something I look forward to imparting to the students at Kew Kids.

Teacher

KEYLA CRUZ

Born and raised in the skirts of the highest peak in the Caribbean (Pico Duarte), I had a childhood filled with the wondrous elements that formed part of my natural education.  If I got hungry, I could just pluck ripe mangoes and other fruits from the trees.  If I wanted to swim, I could simply walk 10 minutes to a river where I could spend hours enjoying the fresh water.  If I wanted to go for a hike, there was a plethora of hiking trails just waiting for my small feet to explore.  Growing up in this type of setting where nature was all around me and later moving to NYC where it seldom is has made me realize just how fortunate I am to have grown up playing in the dirt, climbing trees, and interacting with wild animals on a daily basis. 

 

It is my firm belief that the wholesomeness of my background is the reason why today I am a happy adult, which is one of the reasons why I encourage parents everywhere to take their children out to play.  The other reason is that being outdoors is not only good for for the psychological shaping of a person, but it also helps develop a healthy microbiome: no one I grew up with has any allergies. 

 

Programs like Kew Kids Forest School educate children to protect nature and its biodiversity.  I have a niece and nephew with whom I try to spend as much time as possible and I do my best to turn their attention from their iPads to the world outside.  There’s something truly wonderful about watching a child joyfully jump up and down in a mud puddle knowing that you’re doing what’s best for them and the planet, which after all will be our most important legacy.

Achievements/Interests:

  • Experienced childcare provider 

  • Fluent in Spanish

  • Currently studying to become a global history teacher at Borough of Manhattan Community College

  • Greenpeace US volunteer and plastic usage data collector

  • Nature immersion coach for High School for Law and Public Service 

  • NYC-based Sean Casey Animal Rescue volunteer

  • Proud aunt to a 4 year old little boy and to a 2 year old little girl

Achievements/Interests:

  • Studio Engineer, Minnesota Children's Museum

  • Drama Specialist, Camp Butwin JCC

  • Creative Writing Instructor at Alabama School of Fine Arts

  • BA Theater Studies from Yale University and my training (including classes in clowning!) has taught me to be flexible, adventurous, collaborative

PETER GRAY

Teacher

Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, I have studied fairy tales in Copenhagen, philosophy in Greece, and environmental ethics on a North Carolina goat farm. I hold a B.A. in Theater Studies from Yale University and have taught both Drama and Creative Writing to students of all ages.  I have also worked as a Museum Experience Assistant and Studio Engineer at the Minnesota Children's Museum.

​Most recently I taught drama to kids aged kindergarten to eighth grade at Camp Butwin in St. Paul, Minnesota. In the lessons I created, students invented their own superheroes, designed imaginary habitats where diverse animals could coexist, and solved murder-mystery-style puzzles.  As a Museum Experience Assistant, I worked with kids and families of all ages and backgrounds, helping them engage with the museum exhibits and explore their creativity. Some memorable experiences during our exhibit on compassion include helping kids write a birthday card to Halloween and introducing therapy dogs.  As Studio Engineer, I supervised our studio, or “maker space,” where children created their own art projects with different materials. Units included drawing, upcycling, metal, fabric arts, and even a cardboard city!

I try to infuse my love of nature into all my work. I believe a connection to the earth is essential to a well balanced life.  Inspired by Shark Week and the camp goats at Camp Butwin, I organized Goat Week, a week full of goat-centric drama activities.  I conducted my classes outside every day, rain or shine, and also assisted with the camp horses.  Over the years, I have helped milk and feed goats on Bosky Acres, a goat farm in North Carolina, and have taken classes in Environmental Studies and Environmental Ethics. 

I am passionate about bringing stories and nature to a new generation of young minds.  Stories are what connect us.  They tell us who we are and shape who we will become.  They teach us how to treat others and the world around us. We need to nurture the creativity and sense of wonder alive in each of us to build the best world possible. I look forward to inspiring a group of curious, gentle souls to be the most authentic selves they can be!

Teacher

NAZEELA HAMID

Born in a country like Guyana that is mainly pristine rainforest, sugar cane plantation and rich rice fields, a child’s mind has so much to explore in the land of many waters.  Playing in the big green open fields, navigating the ground for beautiful and colorful insects or simply picking delicious fruits at your fingertips, such a relaxed and harmonizing environment truly makes you appreciate nature at its finest.  Guyana epitomizes the lifestyle of humbleness and oneness with nature.


Growing up in New York Queens, the feeling of nostalgia usually steps in because I felt restricted being indoors most of my school days and not being able to get my hands dirty with nature.  Always being told to color inside the lines tends to destroy a child creativity.  Now that I am a mother of four beautiful children, I have experienced different learning methods, the most effective one is learning through playing and exploring our environment.  There is something truly magnificent in watching my children playing in the rain and looking forward for the rainbow at the end of the storm. I am excited about imparting my passion of learning through play
with the students at Kew Kids Forest school.

Achievements/Interests:

  • Blessed with four children, twin boys and two girl

  • Involved in parents committee and a volunteer at my children’s school

  • New York State Public School Teaching Assistant certified

  • Dignity for All Students Act (DASA) trained for school violence and bullying

  • Trained for students with special needs

  • Firm believer in continuous learning

Achievements/Interests:

  • Biology, psychology, and pre-vet student

  • A second mom to my little brother (10 years difference)

  • Experienced children educator at a Montessori pre-k school

  • Event organizer and outreach specialist for an animal advocacy non-profit organization

  • Translator and interpreter in Spanish and English

  • Completed various seminars on wildlife rehabilitation at South Florida Wildlife Center

  • Volunteer at Tamerlaine Farm Animal Sanctuary

VICTORIA M. LAGARDERA

Teacher

As an honor student majoring in biology, psychology, and pre-vet medicine, one could make a good guess and say I enjoy science.  But most people don’t ask how, or where, my passion for learning began.  The answer is nature.  I don’t really remember the first time that I was lost immersed in admiration by its wonders, because to me, it seems they were always there.

 

Having born in Uruguay, a very small country by the Atlantic Ocean, way to the south in South America, I had the opportunity to be raised exploring and experiencing nature’s marvels every day while still immersed in the capital city of the country.  My childhood memories are my most precious treasures, from the long walks after a storm that my mom took us on, searching for and rescuing baby birds that had fallen from their nests; to playing in the mud with my rescued wild boar, Inos; or jumping between rocks at the beach and observing how anemones close when you touch them. 

I was taught to respect all life, and even save jellyfish who were stuck in the sand at the beach.  I learned to connect with animals as individuals, to understand them in their own ways, and to rescue and rehabilitate them.  I learned to sail boats, climb trees, and developed a deep curiosity for the world around me and how things work.  I learned how intertwined science, art, and even empathy are with the natural world, and how important it is for humans to have a deep connection with our planet.  But the greatest lesson is the immense respect and compassion that I developed for our planet and its inhabitants; as well as the awareness that our actions as free willed individuals may and do affect this wonderful world and all of us living in it.  I feel very deeply within me that it is imperative that in today’s world, where parents have to work long hours and may be tired and busy when they get home, kids can get their brains out of the screens and are able to experience nature in their daily lives first hand: touching, smelling, feeling, talking, painting, exploring, interacting, and laughing.

I’m convinced that spending time in nature, especially when we are young, is the way that new generations will be able to develop the love, respect and compassion that the world needs.  Because otherwise, how could we love something that we don’t know?  I really believe that this time has an immense impact in our respect for the planet and fellow earthlings; as well as in fostering our creativity, curiosity, and our physical and mental health.

Teacher

JEANNETTE KIRSCH

I was born in Santiago, Chile during Pinochet dictatorship and later moved with my family to Buenos Aires, Argentina.  Not too long after, we immigrated to Israel now home to my parents.  My personal journey continued to the United States to fulfill a dream as an Artist.

In Santiago, I was raised in a farm and as a child that was my greatest memories.  My art reveals those childhood memories and a great reflection with delicate lines creating vibrant patterns woven into vivid images of flowers, leaves, and seeds.  My art often celebrates the tangible with a glimmer of otherworldly in nature.  I look forward to sharing and inspiring creative expression through art with young children in and out of the forest.  My growing portfolio is housed here: jeannettekart.com

I have worked as a childcare provider for over ten years working with children from 6 months to 8 years old and I am a mom to a vivacious four year old girl.

In addition to English, I am fluent in Spanish and Hebrew.

Achievements/Interests:

  • Proud mom to a curious girl born in 2014

  • Studied art at the Art Students League of New York and New York Studio School of drawing painting and sculpture

  • Experienced childcare provider

Achievements/Interests:

  • Master of Education, Special Education from Vanderbilt University from Nashville, TN

  • Assistant Researcher at Institute of Special
    Education & Rehabilitation Science

  • New York State Teaching Assistant Certification  

  • Teacher of the Year awarded in 2012 from Lindenwood Child Care Center in Memphis, TN

  • Highly motivated learner and educator

  • Interested in qualitative research, applied behavior analysis and theory of multiple intelligences (the book title "The Shame of the Nation” by Jonathan Kozol)

JINAH (JENNA) LIM

Teacher

Born in Seoul, South Korea, I spent a lot of time playing outside with friends riding bicycles and playing balls.  Some of my best childhood memories are finding four-leaf clovers with friends after school and played hide-and-seek at stone mountains nearby my school.  During summer, I loved to see different kinds of dragon fries and hear cicadas singing.  One of my favorite game as role playing as teachers and doctors.  So I pursued a degree in special education combining medicine and teaching. 

 

I came to U.S. for my Master of Education at Peabody College of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.  After graduating from school, I worked as a GED math instructor at a community college and as teaching assistant at public schools in PreK to elementary classes. 

 

Throughout my experience, I most treasure the connection I had made with toddlers at a multicultural, faith-based inclusive preschool and a top-ranking preschool in Memphis TN. It was then that I was called Ms. Jenna and even earned Teacher of the Year award in 2012.

 

I recall fondly running on grass, playground and soccer fields all day long.  During summer, the children would enjoy splashing water and, in winter, we went outside to make snowball and snowmen without a care in the world.  All these precious memories bring me to the Kew Kids Forest School where I hope to make these cherished memories again!

Teacher

RITA SIMAKOVA

I was born in Rostov on Don in Russia in a big house with a big yard that had a fruit garden where all the children helped my grandmother grew vegetables.  Later, my family moved to Uzbekistan.  It was there I learned about nature in Central Asia.  I saw many mountains and experienced how they changed through the seasons.  With specialized training in art and music, I frequently expressed my joy through these mediums.

 

I moved to New York with my children and my husband and started working with children after we settled in Kew Gardens.  I especially enjoy working with children from 12 months to 2.5 years old.  

Children are natural explorers and I see it as my role to offer ways for children to safely explore their curiosity and present opportunities to practice new skills, including behavior and social skills.

 

My daughter is now 15 and my son is 7 and we enjoy our time outdoors.  I am grateful to be part of Kew Kids Forest School in our neighborhood.

Achievements/Interests:

  • Proud mom to a curious teenage girl and an active son

  • Experienced childcare provider

  • Trained in Infant Brain Development, Early Intervention, Managing Challenging Behavior Birth to 36mo, Infection Control and Barrier Precautions

  • Involved in parents committee and a volunteer at my children’s school