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Robert Frost

“When I see birches bend to left and right...I like to think some boy's been swinging them.”

Our Team: Quote

Achievements/Interests:

  • Proud mom to 2 boys, eight and five years old

  • Super Steward and Trail Maintainer, NYC Parks

  • Tree Captain, 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

  • Project Management Professional

  • MBA

JESSICA HALSRUDD

Founding 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 education option for our little ones.  It is my hope that with our forest school, we’d be able to get our children in direct contact with nature and back on the trails. 

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

Our Team: TeamMember
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Achievements/Interests:

  • Blessed with four children, twin boys and two girls

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

  • New York State Public School Teaching Assistant certified

  • Dignity for All Students Act (DASA) trained 

  • Certified in infant, child, and adult CPR + First Aid

  • Trained for students with special needs

  • Firm believer in continuous learning

NAZEELA HAMID

Assistant Director

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 Queens, the feeling of nostalgia frequently seeps 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.  As 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 and organizing through play with the students at Kew Kids Forest school.

KATIE GEORGE

Lead Teacher 

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Achievements/Interests:

  • Proud mother of two beautiful daughters

  • DOE Spanish teacher for 7 years

  • Child abuse recognition and prevention trained         

  • Love to read the Bible and cook and spend time with family and friends

  • Certified in infant, child, and adult CPR + First Aid 

GERMANIA ARANA

Lead Teacher

I was born in a small town in Ecuador, a spectacular setting for a beautiful childhood and growing one with nature.  My grandparent's house was in front of a river where all my friends, brothers and I used to swim.  We never needed swimming lessons because our river was our coach.  In winter it rained  a lot and the streets were not made of cement so mud-pool would form.  We took advantage of that and made mud houses.  My father had a large farm, full of cows, chicken and rice crops.  We spent the every weekend at the farm playing and talk for hours on end.

 

I came to the US to study and received a degree in Spanish education.  When I had my first child, my daughter Jessica, I took pains to protect her from getting dirty or going outside when it was too cold.  I remember vividly when she was one year old she caught pneumonia and was very sick a long time. Scared, I took her back to Ecuador to see a family doctor who laughed and told me that my little princess needed to be more in contact with the nature to develop antibodies.  All she needed was to be outside!  This made so much sense then and even more now.  Since then, both of my daughters have had an amazing childhood just like mine--getting dirty and messy is ok. We are now all healthy and strong thanks for nature as a physician and a healer.

There is something magical about being in nature.  You feel it deep within – it touches your spirit.  Just a few minutes of being in nature makes us feel healed and restored.  Nature gives us strength, drains away all negative energy and fills us to the brim with positive energy.  Let us spread that wealth in our community of youngest learners.

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SAADIQUA ALI 

Lead Teacher 

Achievements/Interests:

  • Proud mom to a 12-year old daughter

  • Avid makeup artist and gardener

  • Enjoy camping and travel with family

  • Currently enrolled in University of Maine baccalaureate program in liberal arts

I was born and raised in the beautiful island of Trinidad and Tobago which is well known for its rich ethnic diversity, racial harmony and excellence across a wide variety of artforms. It’s the birthplace of steelpan, the limbo, a variety of music styles and the home to the oldest rainforest reserve in the Western Hemisphere with over 400 species of birds. 

 

My grandparents were in the farming industry and I remembered how exciting it was going out in the fields climbing trees, running around in the rain, playing tag with my cousins and the neighbors kids, picking fresh fruits and eating them on the spot. We also had a pond with fishes which we would occasionally splash around in. My love for nature started then! Our neighbors houses were our second homes, feeling the love, affection and safety as if we were their own. I always helped watch the little ones when my neighbors had to run errands. I was everyone's big sister in my neighborhood and I believe this played a huge part in how nurturing, affectionate and caring I am.

 

When I moved to New York, yes it was hard at first, I had to get use to winter and not being outdoors as much. To help me adjust to this new lifestyle my siblings would always plan camping trips throughout the year which we still do till this day. I quickly became the favorite Aunt as I took care of all my nieces and nephews as my siblings worked. Eventually, I started working as a babysitter for many years until I became a mom of my beautiful kind-hearted daughter who loves nature as much as I do. Almost everyday in the summer we would go on picnics and we would visit the beach and sink our toes into the sand  even in the winter. Just take deep breaths and become one with nature, it works wonders for your mental and physical wellbeing.

 

I am grateful for the opportunity to relive my childhood through learning and exploring with the wonderful kids at Kew Kids while making new memories along the way. 

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Achievements/Interests:

  • Proud dad to a grown son

  • Orton-Gillingham Associate in training.

  • Certified Forest Therapy Guide and experienced Outdoor Nature Teacher

  • Forest Therapy (Forest Bathing) Guide for adults in the New York Botanical Garden

  • Waldorf Elementary School teacher (Sunbridge Institute)

  • Masters in Library Science at St. John's University

  • Masters in Educational Theater at NYU

MICHAEL CUNNINGHAM

Lead Teacher (Central Park)

Born in Long Island I spend much of my time outdoors, mostly playing games with other kids in the neighborhood.  My family also spent many summers camping.  I have continued the tradition, getting my son involved with Scouting. My favorite place to be outdoors is in my vacation home in Vermont.

Last year I retired as a NYC High School Librarian with over 25 years of experience.  I am a certified Forest Therapy Guide and experienced Outdoor Nature Teacher trained as a Waldorf  Elementary School teacher.  I was drawn to Waldorf education because it combined a lot of interests I had: drama, art, the outdoors and had elements of yoga/eastern philosophy.  One of my favorite classes is Biodynamic farming.  I returned to the school after graduating to take a year long Biodynamic farming class. I used some of the methods in a small garden (raised bed)I have in Queens. 

 

I think the most valuable thing for Waldorf is the idea that the teacher should help lead the student toward their mission in life.  Also, that each child has a unique temperament.  I feel that the most valuable thing I can do as a teacher is to offer opportunities for imaginative play.  I learned that play, music, art and mindfulness are the best ways to teach meditation to children in the busy hectic world we live in.

As an outdoor educator, I have worked in spectacular settings like Central Park as well as Battery Park near the ferry to the Statue of Liberty with ages ranging from 4 years to 10 years old.  The most memorable moment for me was at a camp when volunteers who were working with the bee hive offered us a taste of honey.  It was delicious! 

I like to do yoga and also like to write, mostly poetry.  Some of my poems have been published.  I also won an award for a poem that I wrote.  Here is a link to a poem that is currently published in The Field Guide magazine.

feel drawn to Kew Kids and the Waldorf education philosophy it espouses and look forward to amazing discoveries outdoors.

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Achievements/Interests:

  • Travel enthusiast, rock climbing, reading, trail running, backpacking, cooking, writing, gardening, yoga, cooperative living

  • Backpacking Course Leader and Winter Instructor with NOLS

  • Fulbright Malaysia Grant Recipient teaching ESL

  • Youth Crew Leader with Montana Conservation Corps, Americorps

  • Taught backpacking courses to high school students

  • Student teacher for middle school English

  • Licensed CA and MA 5-12 grade English and History (clear), Wilderness First Responder, CPR

  • Fluent in conversational French, conversational Bahasa Melayu, beginner Spanish

ANNA SANTOLERI 

Lead Teacher (Central Park)

Born and raised in New York City, I never realized the importance of my childhood connections with nature until college, when I joined my university’s outdoor program. I did not consider myself to be an “outdoors person” like many of the members–my experiences outside included roaming around Central Park, going to a nearby lake in the summer, playing soccer, and exploring Coney Island. However, something clicked for me in participating in, then leading trips for this college program. I felt a deep sense of calm and connection to the places I explored and the people I was with. The lessons I learned about observation, self-care, communication, and interconnectedness stuck with me, often more than those I learned in lecture halls and seminar rooms. I wanted to spend more time outside.

 

Simultaneously, I was also developing a deep interest in education. The other hallmark of my college experience was working with young students through an arts-based afterschool program. It was one of the most difficult things I had done, but the joy of seeing their joy and pride in their learning, the challenge of working with them as they overcame frustration, anger, or disappointment–these experiences felt real, much more real than any work I could do in front of a screen. I wanted to spend more time not just outside, but exploring how education could take place in the outdoors. 

 

 

Ten years later, I am still learning about the potential for outdoor spaces to be deeply transformative places of learning. Having worked as a wilderness instructor and youth conservation crew leader in Yosemite, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and Washington, as well as a classroom teacher in Boston, San Diego, and Malaysia, it feels fitting to bring my passions for working with young people and learning outdoors to my home city. It is exciting to look beyond the city’s built exterior to see its potential for outdoor education, and to share this potential with its youngest residents.

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Achievements/Interests:

  • Proud mother to two elementary school-age children

  • Artist by heart and by training

  • Especially interested in photography, painting, sculpture, and drawing

  • Also love hiking and anything involving natural bodies of water

  • Forever young – young people are my favorite conversation partners

  • Certified by New York State as a Teaching Assistant and also trained in CPR + First Aid

JULIE CORWIN

Lead Teacher

I moved to New York City in 2007 to work as a graphic designer at a variety of CNN shows, having worked previously in their Atlanta office (where I was born and raised). I then worked as a graphic designer for the Hearst Corporation, designing pieces for their portfolio of magazines. I am trained as an artist – having obtained a bachelor’s in graphic design from the University of Georgia – and, as a child and to this day, I see the intertwined qualities, and the importance, of nature and art. Especially in this age of increasing reliance and devotion to technology, I feel it’s vitally important for us to get back to nature, especially for children, who gain so much from the firm foundations we facilitate.

 

I am driven by my passions for being a mom, teacher, and artist. I love being part of a community that values nature and play as pedagogical tools -- as a mom, teacher, and artist, I aim to foster social and emotional awareness in the growing minds of youth, using nature to inspire and educate. I believe that art is also a wonderful facilitator for gaining awareness of one's self and the world around.

 

After spending the entire day with my two young children in the thrilling and engaging playgrounds and parks of NYC (where I witnessed children learning, on their own, critical skills related to diplomacy and community-building through play), I decided to switch careers and follow another passion – early childhood education. My first job in this field was at a preschool in Forest Hills, where my children were born and are being raised, followed by a pre-K through grade 12 independent school, where I was an associate teacher in the preschool/pre-k classroom. I have also worked as a caregiver to twins and an arts and crafts instructor at a camp.

 

I enjoy the opportunity each day to learn, explore, and grow at the Kew Kids Forest School!

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TAZ GAILLARD-JACOBS

Teacher

Having just recently moved to New York City from South Africa to embark on a Masters in Art Therapy I have found myself landing with my ‘bum in the butter’ (as they say!). Working with children and in the forest drawing from Nature and the wild are two concepts that define so much of my upbringing. Having grown up in rural South Africa, the Eastern Cape where we exist with our feet bare and our roots grounded, where we fetch our water from the springs, it is only natural that I would find myself gravitating towards the outdoors and wanting to share and embellish within this Nurture.

After finishing with a Computer Science undergraduate degree I found myself working in an environment that strayed so far from all that comes natural to me -- be it moving the Body, working with my hands creatively and most importantly being out in Nature with others. After Covid I took to study further in understanding the body through yogic philosophy and found myself drawing more towards the holistic field of learning and living respectively.

Working closely with children with diverse needs, a theme that hits close to home having grown up with my older brother who is Autistic, I decided to change paths studying psychology and combine that with the holistic approach. Seeking comfort in working with children utilizing their senses through music, art, games, dance and yoga.

I am so passionate about children and aim to enhance their ability to engage with their physical bodies out in Nature and the real world. I have found the response to this approach extremely beneficial especially when working with all children and especially children with needs.

Having joined the Kew Kids Forest team I couldn’t be happier to have Nature as our primary foundation in which we execute in learning. And I look forward to cultivating through this experience!

Achievements/Interests:

  • Bachelor degree in Computer Science

  • Bachelor degree in Applied Psychology

  • South Africa Eastern Cape Forage Team

  • Creative student of the body and the Arts

  • Primary/ Elementary school Piano Teacher

  • Athlete

  • Yoga Teacher and Movement Instructor

  • Lover of all animals

  • Former Girl Scout 

  • CPR + First Aid Certified

  • Avid camper!

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JASON GLOVER

Teacher

Through meditation, guidance at a young age, and high levels of discipline, I've obtained a very high level of patience and happiness that will aid me in my role towards the future development of the children here at Kew Kids Forest School.

 

From a young age, I started helping my mom around her dance studio, which included helping to teach children how to dance, going on recitals and performing outside of the dance studio, etc. I have been dancing, singing, acting, or any form of expression through the arts for around a decade. I am currently going to college for Theater (although I am thinking about switching to music) and I graduated from high school with advanced diploma for the arts. I hope that in my time here, I can help them to express themselves through more means than words alone.

Achievements/Interests:

  • Student at LaGuardia Community College 

  • Professional dancer and performer

  • Self taught flute player

  • Self taught Mandarin Chinese

Achievements/Interests:

  • Proud mom of a teenage daughter and 2 boys 10 and 8 years old

  • Love cooking and baking

  • Enjoys outdoor activities such as camping, fishing, hiking and exploring

  • Over 15 years experience as a childcare provider

  • Skincare/makeup enthusiast & Instagram influencer/content creator

I grew up in the small yet beautiful Caribbean island of Trinidad and Tobago, known for its lush greenery, an array of flora and fauna, a wealth of history, and not forgetting its beautiful tropical climate which undoubtedly allowed me to enjoy being outdoors at any point in time. Growing up in this beautiful island taught me to love and learn so much about nature which allowed me to acquire a mass of knowledge and appreciation for what it is like to have beautiful climate and sunshine all year round.

I grew up with my siblings playing in muddy puddles, trotting around barefooted. Some of my favorite outdoor activities were playing cricket, fishing, camping and planting our own vegetables and herbs. As a mother now, these are the same memories I am making with my children.

When I moved to New York my first job was in childcare. It kindled my loved for teaching young minds, helping them to learn and grow. With over 15 years experience in childcare, I intend to grow and learn as I go along as every experience is a stepping stone towards a bright future.

I embrace this new adventure with open arms, looking forward to spending time in nature and enjoying being outdoors whilst shaping the young minds that will be our future!

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Teacher

ANNMARIE SINGH

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I was raised in India rich with plants and wildlife.  My father was a vegetable farmer and my childhood was filled with vast green space and bountiful harvest. My fondest days were spent in the water well at the farm. I was the oldest of eight children and I knew I wanted a big family of my own one day.

I got married in New York and soon had children of my own. I made sure they touched dirt and connected with the Earth in their own way. I made sure that our busy lives were balanced with calm walks and fresh air from a neighborhood park.

 

I feel so lucky to find a home at Kew Kids where I share the values of an imaginative childhood free of screens and modern day distractions. Kew Kids is inspiring me and helping me rebuild my personal connection with nature. I want to teach kids to enjoy their time with nature now.

Teacher

UPASANA LAL

Achievements/Interests:

  • Proud mom of four, 2 boys and 2 girls

  • Love to cook

  • Outdoor explorer

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SHATHI DAS

Teacher

As a young girl I used to play in the crystal clear lakes and climb the vibrant green trees. It molded me to who I am today. I enjoy spending time with children and being outside in nature. I feel nature is therapy for those who seek it .

 

Spending my whole life in Bangladesh, I have come to appreciate the beauty of nature. There are ten months in the summer and two months of winter. I especially cherish my time in the gardens planting mangoes, lychees, coconuts and many nuts! Gardening is hard work but I find great happiness in harvesting my crops. 

 

Kew Kids has brought me back to my young days and it makes me feel truly happy to be part of this wonderful program .

Achievements/Interests:

  • Proud mom to 18 year old daughter and 13 year old son

  • Cooking 

  • Gardening

  • Reading 

  • Love to take long walks in nature 

Achievements/Interests:

  • Trained geologist

  • Super Steward and Trail Maintainer, NYC Parks

  • Avid gardener

My brand is "Joanna the Green Maven." To be a Maven you must really be passionate about something whether it's food, fashion, or in my case, nature and the environment.  I have been writing nature articles, tips and blogs for over 30 years, volunteering and leading nature projects, and working in the community gardens. That is my happy place.

 

As a Woodlands Crew Leader at Prospect Park in Brooklyn, my job was to direct teams of volunteers and school groups in projects designed to help restore the park to its native, eastern woodlands state.  Projects such as clean-up, planting and mulching were my specialty.  As a Head Explainer at the New York Hall of Science, I worked with young children to explain and demonstrate exhibits and lead workshops that taught science concepts like mirrors, prisms, kaleidoscopes and light, shadows, and sound as themes.  I remember fondly a video microscope demonstration which projected the view from the scope onto a screen. The subject of our observations was microscopic pond life.

Growing up in the era before technology took over gives me a unique insight on how to connect children with the world around them.  There was no science camp or scheduled play dates for us and no internet.  We were told to go out and play, and that was all year round.  We played with piles of leaves, we made snowmen, we caught fireflies and we drew games like hopscotch in chalk on the sidewalk.  I would love to see today’s kids do those things again.

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Gardener and Teacher

JOANNA LACEY

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Achievements/Interests:

  • High school degree

  • 2 years of childcare experience

  • Mandarin speaker

PEGGY LEUNG

Teacher

Born in Queens, I did not explore nature as much because my immigrant parents were busy making money to provide for me and my older sister.  Thus, I was attached to my iPad and would
watch YouTube videos for hours a day.  However, entering high school I took a climate solutions class and discovered my passion for the environment and everything it had to offer.  I would find myself joining the Green Team where I got involved in numerous presentations to educate students in my school, one of which was a student-led teach-in about the importance of taking action in order to fight against climate change.


I started to spend more time outdoors when I became a horticulture intern at Queens Botanical Garden. To smell the crisp air and see the various shades of green in the garden made me
realize how much I would’ve loved exploring nature as a young kid.  This opportunity at Kew Kids allows me to help kids build a relationship with nature and enjoy the benefits of
nature that I never had as a child.

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RAJIA SULTANA

Teacher

Achievements/Interests:

  • Graduated Metropolitan University in Bangladesh

  • Completed Food Protection Food Handler Certificate

  • Love to cook

  •  Enjoy taking fun and  enjoyable trip

I was born in Bangladesh, a country full of natural beauty and lush surroundings. As the only child, I had a lot of time and personal space and received my parents' undivided attention and love though with strict house rules. My parents introduced me to nature and the grandeur of mountains and rivers. I learned to be cheerful and appreciative of all living things. 

 

In my free time, I like to read stories and listen to music. I enjoy cooking creatively with food. Most of all, I like to spend time with children. I have tutored children in small groups ages 2 to 4.

 

Kew Kids takes me back to my childhood and I feel very lucky to be part of early learning through direct experiences in nature and creating lifelong relationship with Mother Nature.  

 

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