Jacob is the Executive Director of Camp Kawartha, an award winning organization. The camp operates as a residential outdoor centre, a summer camp and as an innovative environmental centre. His passion is teaching children to love and protect their local environment. He holds a teaching certificate and a Master's in Education and has worked in the field of outdoor education and camping for almost thirty years.
Jacob co-teaches part time at Trent University a course in environmental education. Jacob has published a number of articles on children, nature and the environment and has coauthored a book on nature activities throughout the seasons with Drew Monkman called the Big Book of Nature Activities. He is a frequent speaker and has been invited to present to the American Summit for Sustainability, Canadian Roundtable for Pollution prevention and at the Ontario Camping Association's annual conference.
Jacob conceived and spearheaded the construction of one of Canada's most sustainable buildings at Trent University. This unique environment centre educates children and future teachers about sustainable living practices, alternative energy and conservation.
Collaborating with community leaders from education, public health and local conservation groups, Jacob is working to establish an environmental framework for the Peterborough
region. Called the Pathway to Stewardship, the framework articulates key benchmarks and experiences all children should be given the opportunity to experience throughout their development in order to become environmental stewards.
Q: How do we raise kids to be engaged caring stewards of the natural world and how can the canoe help achieve that?
A: What a privilege to be able to talk with remarkable people in a deeper way – to challenge our thinking and assumptions, while being open to hearing different voices. These are deep issues we ruminated on – with no easy answers. Perhaps in our daily lives we don’t bother because of the time and effort it takes to reflect. And a thousand reasons not to mull things over because of the thousand distractions offered by our modern world. The canoe as a vessel of conversation and reconciliation is a powerful metaphor. We are all literally in a same boat, moving in the same direction with the same needs (food, warmth, fellowship). The act of paddling is an act of mindfulness… we have to coordinate our strokes, we need to be attentive to the strokes of others and we need to agree on when to rest and when to push on. There is a richness in this act of journeying together. One that I wish all youth could share.
In the light of recent events, I’ve been thinking about cultural appropriation and the act of imagining. We should never pretend the ceremonies, insights, beliefs and wisdom from other cultures are our own. But at the same time we should engage in the act of “verstehen”, a term coined by sociologist Max Weber. It is the act of trying to put ourselves in the shoes of another. And while it is true we can never fully understand all the pain, trauma and challenges facing another culture – we can and should try to move incrementally closer towards understanding – recognizing that it is precisely in the act of trying to understand where bridges are built. And understanding really isn’t understanding unless we engage in open dialogue, checking our assumptions and always listing with an open mind, an open heart and open ears.
Here’s hoping that out of this trip emerges more trips – especially for youth –where First Nations and Non First Nations youth journey together towards mutual understanding and reconciliation. Like any canoe trip, it will take time, effort and planning but in the journeying – we will begin to get to where we need to go.