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About Jean Wansbrough

Jean was a joyous person with a quick laugh. Having grown up with farm and cottage influences, when Jean began a 25-year teaching career at Swansea Public School in Toronto, she very strongly valued experiential outdoor learning. Using the schoolyard, local parks, and Boyd and Albion Hills conservation areas, she gradually set up a unique school-wide program that had enduring positive impact on her students.
Grade 7 and 8 students were trained as “student instructors”. On day bus trips with kindergarten classes, these leaders conducted small group a.m. nature/ecology hikes, prepared and served lunch, and conducted p.m. sessions on pioneer artifacts and on the pioneer log cabin that was their base for the day. Learning was “hands-on”, curriculum-based, and always guided by Jean’s presence.
Grades 1 to 6 had the opportunity to invite Grade 7 and 8 “instructors” to present in-class natural science slide presentations and could have teams of these “leaders” help conduct schoolyard learning sessions. Grades 4, 5 and 6 went to an in-residence camp for a three-day learning experience. The “leaders” planned the menu, cooked the meals, conducted outdoor learning experiences and helped with purposeful evening activities.
From K to 6, students progressively learned natural science and essential life skills of listening, observing, sharing, documenting, co-operating, being responsible for self and others… all with Jean positively mentoring each outing. For the older “student instructors”, Jean expresses their central learning as a life foundation of self esteem.
Consider being a student who had progressive K to 8 experiences with Jean… what an impact!

What did she do?

During her time at Swansea, Jean was in demand for a wide range of youth and adult outdoor development.  In 1972, Jean became supervisor of in-residence outdoor education for the Toronto region Conservation Authority, firstly at Claremont/Lake St. George centres in the east, then Albion Hills/Cold Creek centres in the west. Her positive impact was now appreciated by centre staff, visiting youth and their teachers, and summer school attendees... her ripples of influence deepened and extended. In early retirement, Jean contributed her engaging, “hands-on” nature and personal development sessions with Ontario summer camp staff, Elderhostel attendees and others. At this stage in life, Jean began to quietly and confidentially sponsor children of some of her relatives and friends for summer camp experiences. She knew each family’s financial reality and knew intimately how pivotal these camp experiences can be in the development of a “selfconfident, other-oriented” good young person.  This eventually led to the formal establishment of the Jean Wansbrough Leadership Training Fund. The Fund provides financial assistance for youth in leadership development programs at qualifying summer camps and for qualifying leadership development events.  


Some of Jean's Accomplishments

  • Girl Guides: Chair of the Future Trends in Camping Committee, leader at many events across Canada at the 1972 World Guide Conference in Mexico 

  • University of Toronto: Teacher training on numerous in-residence outdoor education courses 

  • Environmental Science Teachers of Ontario/many Ontario youth camps: numerous outdoor education and leadership development courses for teachers and for camp staff

  • Council of Outdoor Educators of Ontario: founding member and conference presenter at the first conference. 

  • Robin Dennis Award: Received for outstanding contribution to outdoor education in Ontario, for her inspiring, pioneering accomplishments and influence and notably her “train the trainers” role in spreading outdoor education and outdoor leadership competencies

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