About Us

Our Vision

We aspire to promote and facilitate the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional development of children through meaningful interactions in the natural environment. Through exploration, inquiry, reflection and community building we strive to create a positive learning environment that promotes achievement and development of lifelong skills.

Our Goals

  • Reconnect children with nature through play, inquiry, and exploration

  • Encourage healthy active living

  • Promote environmental awareness and appreciation

  • Develop strong collaboration, communication, and problem-solving skills

  • Offer low student to adult ratios allowing for mentorship and student-led learning

Our Team

BRAD GRAVES, Director, is a certified Ontario teacher who has a passion for outdoor & physical education, conservation, & environmental sustainability. His experience in educating youth extends over various environments, including teaching in schools, coaching, instructing swimming and ski lessons, and managing Dogwood Acres Camp. Brad's love of sports, sense of adventure, and exploring the outdoors has provided the perfect combination of interests to develop a nature-based mentorship program. He is best known as “Mosquito” here at Dogwood Acres!

MICHELLE GRAVES, Director, is a certified Ontario teacher who is passionate about working with youth to increase their awareness of the environment by simply spending time in the outdoors and reconnecting with nature. Through her experiences in the classroom, various children’s camp settings, and outdoor education programs, she has recognized the value of outdoor time for children to explore, play, and learn through meaningful, inquiry-based, and child-led interactions and experiences. Michelle is an advocate for ongoing learning, positive character development, and youth leadership. She is best known as “Doe” here at Dogwood Acres!

LORI MEZZAVILLA, Lead Program Facilitator, is a certified Ontario teacher who has a passion and enthusiasm for the natural world and is constantly looking to explore and learn more about the environment. From a young age she has been inspired by passionate teachers who exemplified what it means to bring learning to life and she aspires to do the same. Lori is eager to share her excitement and passion for the natural world by educating youth in a fun and hands-on way. She is best known as “Otter” here at Dogwood Acres!

AIDAN BRAY is a lifelong adventurer who feels the most at home in Ontario's back-country, where he often leads multi-day trips. One of his biggest passions is helping others enjoy and learn from this special landscape while putting an emphasis on preserving it. Aidan has a degree in Psychology from The University of Toronto, and was working as a rock climbing instructor while in school. He is best known as “Slug” here at Dogwood Acres!

KATIE FISHER is passionate about fostering a wholesome, life-long connection with nature and helping others do the same. Katie enjoys foraging, tending to her family’s food and medicine gardens, studying herbal medicine, hiking, and photography. Katie is always learning, through practicing species identification and researching the uses of different plants and mushrooms. Katie completed her undergraduate degree with a double major in Environmental Science and Geography and has extensive experience working on organic farms. Katie is excited to share her passion and knowledge with the students in the Monday Seeds program, while learning and growing alongside them. She is best known as “Dandelion” here at Dogwood Acres!

GILLIAN GLOVER-SAMS has a love for the outdoors and is passionate about education. Her honours bachelor’s degree in Environment & Resource Sustainability, with a minor in Geography, has equipped her well to share knowledge about the crucial role we all play in protecting the environment. Gillian realized she desired a career in education after completing placements with numerous organizations as a camp counsellor, museum teacher/interpreter and outdoor education instructor. She is particularly passionate about fostering children’s developmental growth through outdoor play, utilizing manipulatable objects, controlled risk, group work & inquiry-based learning. Gillian loves strengthening children’s connection to the environment, especially when incorporating her passion for sustainability, Indigenous-settler relations and plant ID! She is best known as “Sitka” here at Dogwood Acres!

BRITNEY GRAVES has a passion for environmental protection and preservation and loves to explore the outdoors. She has degrees in Ecosystem Management and Forestry and certificates in Arboriculture and Urban Forestry. Britney has spent many summers as a camp counselor and many winters as a ski & snowboard instructor. Most recently, she returned from a year-long adventure in New Zealand where she worked as an arborist while broadening her appreciation and understanding for different cultures and environments. Britney is eager to share her knowledge with others and help children connect with nature. She is best known as “Mushroom” here at Dogwood Acres!

MILA HAYNOS-OWEN has a Masters Degree in Communication and has been involved in teaching for over 25 years. Experiential learning as well as living books are her passion followed by environmental studies and the arts. After guiding her own three children through 14 years of homeschooling, Mila is excited to continue the journey of nurturing young explorers on a path of learning, discovery and adventure in the beautiful forest school environment. When not in the forest, Mila tends to her family eco-lavender farm (Lavender-Blu), and is a member of the Scugog Arts supporting, growing and promoting a variety of local art events. She is best known as “Scooter” here at Dogwood Acres!

RHIANNON LACE is an ecosystem management technician graduate from Sir Sandford Fleming College School of Environmental and Natural Resource Sciences. She has always had a strong and growing passion for conservation and wildlife across Ontario and worldwide. Rhiannon’s goal is to educate youth and offer unique opportunities for hands on learning in an outdoor environment. She is grateful to be a part of each child's learning experience and she values what she can learn from them as well. She believes that the more that people understand, learn and connect with nature, the more they will care for it. She is best known as “Owl” here at Dogwood Acres!

ROBIN SCHISLER has a Bachelor of Education as well as a Bachelor of Fine Arts. She has been fortunate enough to split her time between being a passionate educator and a professional actor. Teaching in both the public and private sector, Robin feels strongly that regular connection with nature is one of the greatest gifts we can give our children. Her background in the arts has been a huge asset in fostering empathy, collaboration, and social skills in the classroom and in the woods. She is best known as “Robin” here at Dogwood Acres!

History

Dogwood Acres has been operating as a Summer Day Camp for over 10 years and has provided exceptional swimming, leadership and environmental awareness training. It began as a small venture offering swimming lessons to children during the summer who soon expressed interest in wanting to stay and play in our 57 acres of private park which has mixed forests, creeks, and ponds. Our camp program has transformed over the years with current enrolment of approximately 55 campers per day.

As the number of environmental and outdoor education programs have grown and the need and importance for nature-based learning is recognized, Dogwood Acres has started a Forest School. Our programs operate throughout the school year and are intended to complement and enhance the development of your child and his/her learning experience. Check out our Programs page & FAQ's page for more information!