Manager & Founder, Melinda
Melinda is the Founder of Eco Explorers and has a passion for connecting families and children to nature. She is a certified Forest School Leader (FSI 2017), trained in Nature Pedagogy under Claire Warden (2016) and has been working with families and in various community-based roles for more than 20 years. Before having kids, Melinda worked and lived in Cameroon, Africa caring for orphaned chimpanzees and gorillas.
She also founded Australia’s first environmentally friendly toy store and has extensive knowledge of play and child led learning. With a passion for sustainability, she has been an advocate for children’s nature play and has been providing toys for early childhood centres and educators for over 10 years.
She is now a mother of 3 children that she homeschools, and last year she embarked on the biggest adventure of her life, travelling, homeschooling and running a business.
Bush Playgroup Facilitator, Penny
Penny is a qualified Primary School Teacher who has been running our Gresswell Forest bush playgroups for the past year and has been involved with the running of her local playgroups for many years when her own children were young. She has a wonderful ability to gently guide and connect with children to enable them to discover, learn and explore their natural environment.
Penny loves spending time outdoors, going on bush walks with her kids, doing yoga and gardening. She has great local knowledge of Gresswell Forest which she eagerly shares with her playgroup families.
She is passionate about connecting children through play to nature, helping them to learn new things through their interactions with it and each other.
Bush Playgroup Facilitator, Kirsti
Kirsti is an Early Childhood Educator who has over 20 years experience working in Kindergartens, Child Care Centres and Primary Schools. She was a Lecturer at Victoria University (teaching in the Bachelor of Early Childhood/ Primary Education Degree course) and also currently works as a Mentor teacher supervising first year pre-service teachers for Victoria University.
Kirsti loves connecting with and meeting new families to share her love of nature and her local hub of Newport Lakes with them. She has a vast knowledge of the area, it’s wildlife and plants that she shares passionately with the children.
Bush Playgroup Facilitator, Pascale
Pascale is a qualified horticulturalist and linguist who has been developing and delivering gardening and sustainability programs in kindergarten and schools. She has travelled extensively to remote places to live with minority ethnic groups in Laos, Papua New Guinea and northern Australia to document endangered languages and traditional culture. An avid storyteller, Pascale is extremely passionate about ‘connecting to country’ and sharing her knowledge of local Wurundjeri and Boonwurrung culture and languages with her playgroup families.
Pascale runs our playgroups in Braeside and Ricketts Point, and believes this is her calling – an ability to engage young children and connect them to their surroundings, inspiring in them a sense of curiosity and wonder for nature.
Bush Playgroup Facilitator, Katie
Katie is a passionate environmental educator and scientist who has over 20 years experience running environmental education programs and more recently, working with children as a fully accredited AustSwim Teacher. She is currently completing her studies in Early Childhood Education and has many years bush experience while conducting field research ‘off the beaten track’ in remote farming, forested and desert landscapes.
From an early age her father, an exploration geologist, taught Katie to read maps and the bush to survive and she looks forward to sharing these skills with the next generation of great explorers!
Katie runs our bush playgroups at Lysterfield Lake in Lysterfield.
Bush Playgroup Facilitator, Alison
Primary School Teacher, Adventurer… Social Anthropologist by nature (and degree)
Alison has worked and lived in the rainforest in Cairns as a tour guide with horses. Her love of exploring and thinking outside the box propelled her to live in Melbourne where she managed her local playgroup and Kindergarten as president, organising working bees and the installation of natural play spaces in schools.
She recently made the big sea change and moved to Mt Martha with her family on a few acres. She loves camping with her boys, the snowy mountains, beach and bush walks. After completing her Bachelor of Teaching at Deakin Uni and Integration Aide at Monash Uni… she is now excited to immerse herself in Eco Explorers, inspiring a love of nature and learning with the playgroup families on the Mornington Peninsula.
Bush Playgroup Facilitator, Ashlee
Ashlee is an early childhood educator and wilderness camp leader who has been working with children for nearly 10 years. She is also a puppet designer and has worked on many projects with children, making outdoor performances and connecting them with their local area.
Ashlee grew up in the bush in Warrandyte and lived the first 4 years of her life in the Papua New Guinea highlands. A real a bush kid, and eco explorer, Ashlee has fonds memories of playing in mud and near rivers, building cubbies, and having a deep connection to her land and the animals.
These early connections have stayed with her for life and she can’t wait to be part of the next generation of eco explorers.
Bush Playgroup Facilitator, Ryan
Ryan is a passionate environmental educator, conservationist and outdoor adventure leader. Trained with a Diploma of Outdoor Education, Ryan has 5 years experience as a facilitator of outdoor activities, holds a degree In Sustainability Management, and Environmental Philosophy.
After many long and meandering bush walks, and a Habitat management course at Latrobe wildlife sanctuary, Ryan developed his knowledge of the climate, soils and geology that makes Australian flora and fauna so unique.
Ryan believes that getting wet, climbing trees and stopping to listen to the world around us is the best way to nurture a deep love and respect for all whom we share this fruiting flowering earth with.
Bush Playgroup Facilitator, Andrea
Nadine is from Phillip Island where she has lived for 20 years and also works as a Kindergarten assistant and at her local Information Centre. Due to complete her Graduate Diploma of Education-Early Childhood in June, Nadine has previously worked at the Phillip Island Nature Park as an Education Ranger teaching children about the Little penguins, local wildlife and exploring rockpools. She has extensive knowledge of local marine and wildlife which she can’t wait to share with her families.
Nadine loves being outside, exploring rockpools, camping, sunset walks, walking along the beach and spending time with her family (including her crazy puppy).
We are always on the lookout for playgroup facilitators to join our team of highly passionate and experienced educators. If you think this may be you, then we’ve love to hear from you. We are particularly interested to hear from early childhood educators, teachers, forest school leaders and those with an environmental and outdoor education background. Experience working with children and families in nature is required.