Meet our International Team of consultants, instructors, and advisors who are ready to join you on this adventure!
We are here to inspire, collaborate, model, learn, and share ideas as you spark sweet communion between children and nature.
Jean Lomino, Founder and President
Jean Lomino holds a Ph.D. in Leadership with an emphasis in Environmental Education. She spent 20 years as a classroom teacher, and since 2000 she has been an adjunct professor for the MSED program in Outdoor Education at Southern Adventist University. Jean served as Executive Director of Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center in Chattanooga TN and upon retirement in 2015 she co-founded Wauhatchie School, the first forest kindergarten in the state of Tennessee. The school has grown to include four sites in the Chattanooga area with an enrollment of almost 200 students. As Founder and President of the Forest School Teacher Institute, Jean has trained over 400 forest school teachers from the US, Canada, China, Korea, Italy and South Africa, including teachers at No Boundaries Forest Kindergarten in Guangzhou, China. In 2018 she collaborated with Dr. Jiyoun Shin, Vice-Chair of the Korean Forest Kindergarten Association, to conduct research concerning Character Development in Forest Kindergarten. Jean has been a featured speaker throughout the US, at the 2019 International Symposium of Forest Kindergartens in Seoul, South Korea, and has also presented virtually for teachers around the globe including India, Korea, and China.
Joe Pounds, Vice President
As a career educator, Joe has worked with a great variety of schools including experiential, alternative, public, charter, and private. He began his teaching career in outdoor education and adventure-based programs in the early 1980s, then went on to develop and work in alternative schools with indigenous populations in Canada and Arizona. The bulk of his career was spent as a K-12 professional development facilitator specializing in technology integration, project-based learning, and child development. In addition to his twenty years with public education, Joe acted as a founding administrator for a Montessori adolescent farm school and holds an AMI Montessori teacher certificate for children ages 6-12. Most recently, he served as the Director of Adolescent Well-being at a private family foundation. For the last four decades, his energy has been committed towards understanding the concept of authentic engagement as it applies to holistic learning environments. He has collaborated with Dr. Lomino at the Forest School Teacher Institute and Wauhatchie School since 2016.
For fifteen years, Leslie’s time as a naturalist has taken her across Indiana in a variety of roles. She is passionate about connecting people with nature and awakening their inner naturalists. Her favorite time of year is maple syrup season. She is a dedicated butterfly monitor for the Michigan Butterfly Network and the North American Butterfly Association.
Jessica Burkett Indiana, USA
Jessica has an educational background as a Forest School Director and Forest School teacher through Forest School Teacher Institute, Kamana Naturalist certificate, personal training, yoga teaching, and natural movement certified, certificate in nutrition, and Thai yoga practitioner. She is the Outdoor Educator for TROY Alternative School for at-risk youth and was a homeschool educator to her 2 sons as well at homeschool co-ops they participated in. She joined with Giving Gardens of Indiana as the Educational Director in the summer of 2019. She serves on the Tree Board in Columbia City. Sharing her excitement for the world around us and nature with kids is what she loves to teach most. She is a teacher to the core!
Bonnie Cretton Tennessee, USA
Julie Farmer Georgia, USA
Julie serves as the FSTI Director of Admissions. she holds a degree from Southern Adventist University and has worked as a nanny, a preschool teacher, and as the Director of Enrollment for Wauhatchie Forest School in Tennessee. Her home is in Georgia with her husband and two cats. In her free time, she enjoys mountain biking, canoeing, fishing, hiking and thrifting!
Ryan is the founder and director of Thrive Forest School in Louisville, Kentucky which serves families of all backgrounds and has received local and national attention. Ryan is also the co-founder and CEO of the social impact brand This Saves Lives, which donates emergency food aid to children in need around the world through the sale of products in the United States.
Amina Leila Lombard
Cape Town, South Africa
Amina is the Founder-Director of Blooming Good Nature School, the first beach and nature urban forest school in South Africa. With over 25 years' experience working in education and brand management, Mina ran
one of the most popular loyalty clubs in the state, with over 38 000 people at one point,
including implementing and marketing all family events.
She holds a vastly varied background, from a BSc in Elec Engineering, to being a
qualified marine guide, an accredited facilitator, and a Smart Living Trainer in
partnership with the City of Cape Town. She also holds diplomas and certifications in
brand management, public speaking, child psychology, illustration, environmental
ecosystems, renewable energy and climate change sustainability. She is currently completing further study in climate change management from the University of Cape Town and a course in master weaving with indigenous materials. Her first children's book, 'What happened to my tail | a frog's journey' launches this year.
Stacey has been working in kindergarten for almost 6 years. She completed Forest Kindergarten teacher training level 3 at Wauhatchie School in 2018. She worked at a forest kindergarten in Guangzhou for 2 years and currently she is at Mingchu Kindergarten in Guangzhou, China, which is located in the city center, but attaches great importance to the connection between children and nature. She served different roles over the past 6 years, international team manager, teacher and admission officer. Currently she is a member of the Mingchu Education Institute and Forest School Teacher Institute.
Vangie Rodenbeck Georgia, USA
Vangie has 15 years of experience in Christian youth camps, writing children’s curriculum, and facilitating events for children. She has classical training in early childhood education and development. She has served a classroom paraprofessional, a teacher, a parent-liaison in the IEP process, a consultant for special-needs curriculums, and the executive director of a ministry.
She holds a Bachelor’s degree from Point University in Christian Ministry and a Masters in Theology from Lincoln Christian University. After completing her FSTI certification in 2021, she founded Sparrow’s Nest Play -- a forest education program dedicated to urban children.
New Mexico, USA
Before becoming the founder of SOL Forest School, Sally gathered over 25 years of teaching experience which began in Outdoor Education and took her to many different states as well as abroad in Kenya, Italy, and New Zealand. Much of her work has been with children with special needs. She has been recognized as creating the first forest school program for the deaf in world. She holds nature-based certificates from Forest Schools of Canada as well as Tinkergarten. Other areas of certification and training include herbology, forest bathing, and wilderness first aid.
Carl Swafford Tennessee, USA
Carl holds a Ph.D. in Science Education. He was a classroom teacher for 20 years and since 1993 has been a professor at Southern Adventist University. He is the founder of the Outdoor Education Master’s Degree program at the university that includes a Bachelor’s degree in Outdoor Leadership and a Master’s Degree in Outdoor Teacher Education. His pastimes include traveling, birding, photography and all things nature.
is in Our Nature
A nature-based forest school education helps children:
Develop confidence, exploratory skills and independence.
Feel empathy for others and for nature.
Improve physical fitness and mental health.
Encounter and navigate manageable risks.
Build on their natural curiosity.
A Growing Network of Nature Kin Pocket Forest School Sites
Let's add yours to the movement!