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Jessica R. Shepherd
Founder and Principal
Connecting children with nature through early years education, Jessica has more than 10 years of experience in program delivery, parenting & caregiver consulting, research, writing, and document management. Jessica’s approach to early years education centers children and families, meeting them where they are, building on strength, promoting confidence, independence, and resilience. weaving together psycho-educational practices, indigenous-grounded pedagogy, a trauma-informed approach, and forest school ethos; Jessica has established herself as a subject matter expert. She employs an experienced and practiced approach drawing on her academic background and utilizing skills developed in the cultural sector and communications focusing her practice on land-based education; inquiry driven learning and adventurous play in support of development and positive life outcomes.
Child Nature Connect is a land-based childcare that combines positive discipline, peaceful parenting, non-violent communication, and land-based education philosophies.
I wanted to create a learning environment for my children that reflected the values I studied and lived by. Growing up, I had the privilege of being part of a large extended family where everyone played a role in child-rearing. We shared responsibilities and had mixed ages in our caretaking, which allowed for a supportive and inclusive environment. My time spent outdoors exploring, playing and learning from kids, adults and elders, ignited my love for nature, environmentalism, and inquiry-driven learning.
As I completed my studies, I continued to work and train with children in various settings, including a camp for children and youth with special needs, museums and art galleries in Toronto. I spent time in Canada’s near and far North. While undertaking a Master's in Museum Studies at the University of Toronto, I attended Ontario Institute for Studies in Education courses, that focused my interest on activating culture, inclusive education, accessibility, and decolonizing community spaces.
I knew exactly what kind of learning environment I wanted for my own children. It was a place where they could learn and grow while being surrounded by supportive community and nature. Starting small, I built up my business through my dedication to land-based education, learning through play, the importance of inclusion, equitable access to nature, and forest school philosophies.
We created a space where children ask questions, investigate and discover answers for themselves. We empower them to take control of their learning and become active participants in their own education.Child Nature Connect was born, and it became a collection of programming and work that reflected my values and experiences.
I am proud of what we have created and the positive impact we have had on the children and families in our care.
At Child Nature Connect, we believe that children thrive in a natural environment that promotes curiosity, creativity, and respect. Our approach combines modern research, best practices in education, indigenous worldviews, and our own experiences to provide a unique learning environment that fosters growth and development. We understand that each child is unique, and we work with families to create a personalized plan that meets their child's needs and goals. We prioritize kindness, empathy, compassion, and believe in the inherent healing power of the outdoors and that access to nature is integral to wellbeing.
Jessica is truly a special person. Our son has had the most wonderful year in her care. He has learned so much from her and loves going to her house everyday. She is always patient and kind and extremely caring. He comes home each day well rested, happy and full . This seems to be more than a job to Jessica - she really cares about the kids and spends loads of extra time creating an exciting, engaging and caring environment for them.