Belva Stone—Director, Owner, Operator
“Exploring the outdoors through the eyes of a child is one of the most inspiring things.”
Miss Belva has been working with children for 18 years. She spent 12 years as a private nanny specializing in children aged 0-5yrs. During the latter portion of that time, she studied at VCC to get her Early Childhood Education certificate. In 2010 Miss Belva accepted her first preschool teaching job at a traditional Montessori school where she met Miss Pat! She worked there for 4 years before shifting directions and assisted in developing an outdoor preschool program in Vancouver. After 2 years of running this program it became clear to her that she should open her own program and there came the birth of Muddy Boot Prints.
Having grown up in the country, Miss Belva has a deep love for nature and the outdoors. Regardless of the weather, her mother ensured that her and her two brothers got outside every day to explore what was around them. Because of this, one of her deep rooted philosophies is that children must get outside everyday, regardless of the weather. Exploring the outdoors through the eyes of a child is one of the most inspiring things to Miss Belva as often times, children spot things or find true joy in things that adults miss—like puddle jumping! Their curiosity and sense of constant wonder is what intrigues her most about working with children because they show her that there is always something more to learn, see and discover.
Pat McGinness—Lead Teacher
“Nature can take my breath away and I think of children experiencing that feeling.”
Miss Pat moved to Vancouver in the mid eighties from Ontario. She received her ECE certification in 1991 through VCC. After working on the east side of Vancouver for several years, Miss Pat left to explore and work in other parts of BC. When she came back to Vancouver, she chose to work in her friends’ animal care company and still says hello to every dog she meets! Miss Pats love and care for all animals runs deep within her and she passes that passion of care for animals onto the children whenever the opportunity arises—which is often!
Miss Pat returned to the childcare field with knowledge of Waldorf and Montessori theories which is where she met Miss Belva, at a Montessori preschool in East Vancouver. When Miss Pat moved to PEI to connect with her family and explore life on the east coast, they both kept in close touch. Miss Pat enjoyed her time there as she worked in a centre with a manager who was also an advocate of outdoor programming which—which is Miss Pat’s true passion. It was here that she was finally able to create outdoor experiences for the preschoolers she was with and help them develop a deeper love and belief in outdoor education.
Pat has spent a lot of time in her kayak and camped in the winter with a fox family around her fire in PEI. “Nature can take my breath away and I think of children experiencing that feeling,” Miss Pat says, ”I am so excited to be working alongside Miss Belva in this outdoor adventure and look forward to sharing the knowledge I have accumulated with the children and learning new things along with them.”
Michelle Milne – Co-leader – Sandpiper Program
Michelle has been working with children for 18 years. She received her Early Childhood Education certification from Burnaby College in 2000. She worked in Vancouver before moving around BC, with a year in Edmonton, and starting a family. She returned to Vancouver 8 years ago. She has worked in all sorts of centers from daycares to preschools, along with before and after school care.
As a life long learner Michelle is drawn to new adventures that increase her skills and understanding of children. Her passion is supporting children in building their social emotion skills. Studies show early social emotional skills increase educational and career success. After years of working in varied environments Michelle has noticed that there are some barriers for children learning important social and emotional skills in today’s society as well as the opportunity to connect with nature. Children today have limited time to make life long connections to nature and a bigger fear of making connections in their community. Michelle feels lucky to have grown up in a time when swimming in puddles, getting covered in mud, playing with worms and stopping to see what was under a leaf or crawling on the grass was what you did, making time stand still for long moments. She craves to get back to that time with today’s children.
What excites Michelle most about working with Muddy Boot Prints is that Muddy Boot Prints brings together these two key elements in supporting children to learn how to live both physically and mentally healthy lives in an urban setting. Through connecting children to nature in the amazing parks of Vancouver to providing opportunities to give back to the communities, the children and teachers create healthy lives for themselves and each other daily.
Michelle has never stopped exploring the curiosities of her natural environment and she now shares that love with her son. When they are out together they regularly stop to allow small creatures to cross the sidewalk and marvel at the birds in the trees.
Cheryl Fontaine – Co-leader – Sandpiper Program
Cheryl’s love of the outdoors started young. She grew up in the Okanagan where she recalls spending hours in her big ol’ back yard, gardening, biking down to the nearby creek to swim, family camping trips and ice skating at the local outdoor rink. However Cheryl always loved the towering, lush green of the west coast and left the interior for the lower mainland in 1998.
Cheryl has a passion for bringing young children and the outdoors together. In 2016 Cheryl opened her own home based daycare with her now five year old son. During this time she discovered the benefits of letting children explore the outdoors and how much she herself enjoyed being outdoors with them! Mud, puddles and sticks—oh my! She believes play, particularly outdoor play, is the most important way for little ones to explore, create and learn. After enrolling her son in an outdoor early learning program, Cheryl became inspired to go back to school to obtain her Early Childhood Certificate. In 2017 Cheryl enrolled in the Early Childhood Education Program at VCC. She has successfully completed her first year is looking forward to tackling her second and final year of schooling. Cheryl has her Assistant’s License for ECE.
In Cheryl’s spare time, she enjoys biking, gardening, camping with her family and plinking on her ukulele.
Sarah Eakins – Lead Teacher – Sparrow Program
When we take away the walls and invite nature to be one of our teachers, we come closer to viewing the world through the eyes of children and truly experiencing the wonder of simple things.
– Miss Sarah
Miss Sarah completed her Early Childhood Education certification through Vancouver Community College in 2007 and is a passionate lifelong learner. She has over twenty years experience of working and learning alongside children, including nearly ten years building her own family child care program while raising her two young children.
Miss Sarah’s teaching style is rooted deeply in respectful communication and appreciation for each child as a unique individual. She believes that this approach provides each child with the freedom to develop individual interests and skills in an atmosphere of joyful learning and growth through active play and exploration.
With her love of the outdoors and her playful nature, Sarah has found great joy in her work with children: “When we take away the walls and invite nature to be one of our teachers, we come closer to viewing the world through the eyes of children and truly experiencing the wonder of simple things.”
Miss Sarah attributes her strong connection with the outdoors to a childhood spent helping in the garden, going on family picnics, and camping trips, and spending summers at the lake. She finds peace in nature and still can’t resist a picnic!