Our team is a group of passionate educators that want to make a lasting impact in the lives of our future leaders and in our community. To see our educators in the field is truly watching a master craftsman at work. The ability to teach a class of students while also accounting for weather, risk and other moving and fluid factors in the backcountry is profound. It is truly a unique individual that is not only capable of this but thrives on it! These are the Blue Mountain Wild School Instructors, a truly special breed of leader.
Founder Jeff Barrett grew up near the ravines of the Don Valley river in Toronto, the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation. From an early age he had a passion for the outdoors and adventure that later took him on countless adventures to all 7 continents and across the Canadian Arctic. He has taught outdoor education at Upper Canada College, Outward Bound, Summit, and Alive Outdoors. He founded Routes Adventures Inc. (a wilderness adventure program for youth in transition), developed and ran a bear viewing lodge for the Kitasoo Xai Xais Nation in the Great Bear rainforest in BC, guided many expeditions to Antarctica and the Artic, founded a community ecotourism program in Arviat, Nunavut, built a tourism industry for the Carcross Tagish First Nation in the Yukon and has been involved in many other ecotourism and ecoresort programs and developments from Alaska to Oman.
He founded Blue Mountain Wild School in order to create a more meaningful education experience that would ignite his children’s curiosity and love for learning, while also gaining important real world life lessons and skills along the way. He is passionate about developing a new generation of changemakers that also have the passion, the drive and the education to make a meaningful impact in our future.
Sophie Grogan moved to Canada from Ireland as a kid and fell in love with the adventure seeking possibilities of the Canadian outdoors. Travelling and going to school in many different places in the world allowed her to develop a passion for bringing people, especially youth and teens, into the power of the outdoors. Sophie has been working as a wilderness instructor for 5 years through the Limestone District school board, hiking in the Adirondack mountains of NY, kayaking Georgian Bay, and canoeing through Ontario Parks. She is also pursuing an HBA in psychology (Lakehead University), hoping to combine the two fields in the near future. Having spent considerable time in indigenous communities around the world, Sophie is very passionate about the need to prioritize indigenous youth wellbeing through connections to the outdoors.
She is certified in 80-hour Wilderness First Responder, ORCKA 3 Canoe Tripper, Swift Water Rescue, NLS Lifeguard, First Aid CPR-C, Self Harm Prevention and Intervention, as well as Soft-Tissue Release Therapist.
When she’s not in school, Sophie spends her time skiing, canoeing, biking, hanging with her dog, going for a dip in the lake, reading, or off on a wild adventure with her brother (also an instructor with BM Wild School)!
Ali Bush - Experiential Educator
Ali believes that for students to thrive, they must be fully engaged. Ali’s goal is to inspire her students to be critical thinkers, creative problem solvers and life-long learners. She believes that learning activities must be dynamic and interactive, and she uses her energetic approach to encourage participation in an interactive and hands-on way. Ali also believes that if we want students to learn from the world around us, they must respect our environment and cherish all that it has to offer.
Ali has a particular interest in healthy, active living. She works hard to promote fitness and inspire in her students a commitment to both physical and mental wellness. An accomplished athlete herself, Ali has competed in Track and Field and Cross-Country running at the provincial level, and she is a Rep level soccer player. She was also a saxophonist in the Ontario Provincial Youth Honor Band. Ali is an active community volunteer, and a recipient of the Lieutenant Governor’s Community Volunteer award.
Ali currently lives in the Town of Blue Mountains where she enjoys mountain biking, paddling, running, hiking, cross-country skiing, and snowboarding. She is excited to work with the Wild School team to share her passion and enthusiasm for active learning!
Lauren Black - Experiential Educator developed a passion for connecting with nature at a young age spending summers in Muskoka, attending and working at Glen Bernard Camp in Sundridge, and enjoying winters skiing on the escarpment. Lauren's experiences of learning through outdoor experiential education in her formative years proved incredibly resonant. These opportunities inspired her desire to become an outdoor educator.
Lauren attended OISE (University of Toronto) to complete her Bachelor of Education and her Environmental Education Specialist Level 1. Lauren has experienced a wide variety of teaching environments from outdoor education to forest school and traditional private schools for students in kindergarten to grade eight. Throughout these experiences, Lauren's throughline has always been connecting children to nature and facilitating experiences for students to nourish a lifelong connection to the Earth. Lauren believes nature is our greatest teacher and is thrilled to explore nature as the backdrop for learning and growth at Wild School. When she's not teaching she can be found behind the lens of her camera, hiking, skiing, trail running, surfing, doing yoga or immersed in a great conversation
Steve Simpson grew up in Hamilton Ontario but is now ecstatic to call the Georgian Bay Area home. After over a decade stop in the Niagara Region, Steve has emerged from those grounds with a bachelor's degree in Recreation and Leisure Studies (Brock University), NOLS graduate (Yukon), and years of experience as an Outdoor Educator for Youth, in the private school and therapeutic sectors. Steve now lives off-grid with his wife, daughter, and their two dogs, with views of Georgian Bay beyond their gardens and chicken coops.
He is certified in 80-hour Wilderness First Responder and has valuable experience in a vast amount of Outdoor Pursuits including Orienteering, portaging/paddling, hiking, camping, and much more! Steve’s passion for Outdoor Education remains constant, with a personal philosophy that emphasizes that it’s not just the skill you learn that’s important, it’s what the experience teaches you about yourself.
Hil Coburn grew up on Mississauga of the Credit Territory in Dundas. She was raised with an appreciation for the outdoors, which instilled a passion to protect and educate about the environment. Hil has worked as a certified teacher for 8 years, with her B.Ed in Outdoor Experiential Education (Queen's University). She has a background working as an international youth leadership trip facilitator in rural Ecuador and Ghana (with Me to We), as a canoe and backpacking guide/coordinator, an outdoor educator and a classroom teacher (high school Geography, Outdoor Education, English and elementary Grades 4-8). Hil is passionately committed to learning alongside students and staff to support reconciliation with local indigenous peoples and communities.
She is certified in 80-hour Wilderness First Responder, ORCKA 3 Canoe Tripper, Swift Water Rescue, NLS Lifeguard, First Aid CPR-C, Tribes Community Training, and is a GPS Green Check Instructor. She is currently a board member for the Council of Outdoor Educators of Ontario, a teacher consultant with McMaster University and a coordinator with the Friends of Bronte Creek memoir project. When she’s not teaching, she can be found cross country skiing, gardening, mountain biking, paddling, crafting, running and dreaming up new programs for the Wild School!
Arthur Murgatoyd grew up on Larrakia Aboriginal lands in the Northern Territory of Australia. He was intrigued by the Canadian wilderness when he first came to Ontario on a University exchange in 2005. Arthur soon fell in love with the warm community, adventure and environmental learning that came with working at outdoor education centres and summer camps. Arthur studied to be a teacher in Cairns, Australia and has worked in high school, elementary and outdoor education for 8 years since graduating. He currently works as an international wilderness trips facilitator with the National Outdoor Leadership School, a canoe/wilderness guide for Georgian Bay Secondary School’s Pursuits program, an occasional outdoor educator for Bluewater Outdoor Education Centre and a long-term occasional teacher for the Bluewater District School Board.
He has certificates in 80-hour Wilderness First Responder, ORCKA 3 Canoe Tripper, Swift Water Rescue, NLS Lifeguard, First Aid CPR-C, and ACMG Climbing Top Rope. Arthur is currently completing his Masters of Education, focussing on Forest Schools’ impact on education in Ontario. Arthur loves riddles, empowering students to be competent and confident in the outdoors and enjoys exploring the Blue Mountains by bike, x county skis, canoe and climbing rope!