All Nature Connect staff are trained in First Aid & CPR.

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Brinkley Hutchings

Founder & Director

Program Facilitator

Brinkley spent most of her childhood exploring and playing in the outdoors. She started Nature Connect because she is inspired by children's sense of wonder, curiosity, and play and loves to share her enthusiasm for the natural world. Brinkley graduated from UNC Wilmington with a degree in Environmental Science. She has worked and studied extensively at multiple outdoor schools across the country and is now a certified coach and consultant for other nature schools. In 2017, Brinkley moved home to coastal Alabama to be with her family and start Nature Connect Alabama. Brinkley is the director for both our Alabama and North Carolina chapters and teaches our classes in Alabama.

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Kathryn Waple

Director of Homeschool & Internship Programs 

Homeschool Enrichment Program Facilitator

Kathryn has always been at home outdoors.  Some of her earliest memories are of spending time in the woods with her Grandfather and Dad, exploring the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. When she is not roaming the woods, she can be found in her garden or at the beach. She always knew she wanted to be a teacher and has been working with people, plants and the Earth for the last ten years. She has taken 8 Shields Art of Mentoring training and has facilitated the youth program for the Vermont Wilderness School's Art of Mentoring Program.  She has also worked with Earth Path Education's Growing Goddess/Moon Mystics Rites of Passage Camps. 

 

She has a Certificate in the Fundamentals of Herbalism from Appalachian School of Holistic Herbalism, and has apprenticed with Corinna Wood of Red Moon Herbs. She graduated from UNC Wilmington in 2007 with a degree in English Literature and a minor is Parks and Recreation. She earned her Teaching Certificate in High School Education from UNCW in 2010. Kathryn is the owner of Gray Cat Botanicals, a local herbal extracts business that focuses on the use of fresh, home-grown, food-like plants for making herbal extracts.

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Alison Gordon 

Director of Farm School & Family Programs

Farm School Program Facilitator

Marketing & Outreach 

Alison was born and raised in the foothills of North Carolina and attended UNC-Wilmington where she received her Bachelor’s in Environmental Science. Her connection with nature began early, growing up on her family's farmland, hiking the Blue Ridge Mountains and exploring the shoreline of the coastal Carolinas.

After working for over 10 years in the education department at Brevard Zoo in Melbourne, Florida as an educator, grant coordinator and department manager, Alison is firm in her belief that caring for wildlife and wilderness begins with our youngest minds. She’s also worked as a development associate for Wildlands Network and naturalist for the Environmental Learning Center. Her passion for conservation education and stewardship is the foundation for cultivating strong community relations. Alison is a certified FL master naturalist and owner of Seahorse Stables, a farm and equestrian center in Wilmington, NC where she lives with her husband and 3 daughters.

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Britt Carpenter

Farm School Program Facilitator

Britt is a Wilmington native who grew up exploring and falling in love with the woods and marshes near her home. She has been working with Nature Connect since 2016 as a facilitator for the preschool, homeschool enrichment, and family programs. She is eager to pass along her love of nature to future generations, especially since welcoming her daughter to the world in 2018. In her free time she enjoys cooking, playing guitar, singing, camping, and spending time outdoors with her family. She is also a facilitator for the Wilmington chapter of Turning The Wheel.

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Oana Duma

Farm School Program Facilitator

Oana was born in Romania and moved to the United States in 2013. She spent most of her childhood playing outside, and often attended summer camps in the mountains. She fell in love with the outdoors immediately and has continued to further her connection with nature ever since. Her favorite activities include hiking, camping, playing in the rain and cooking. Her favorite memories are long hikes with friends followed by camping on top of the mountains and playing the guitar by the fire. Oana believes that nature is a never ending source of wonder, love and energy. As a mother of two young boys, she truly thinks that every child should be able to benefit from the emotional intelligence that nature builds and all the joy the outdoor education brings!

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Christy Porter 

Homeschool Enrichment Program Facilitator

Christy is a fourth generation Wilmington native who grew up fishing, digging up clam patches with barefeet in the salt marshes, exploring the barrier islands, and playing in the woods. Being a mother herself, she believes in the importance of exposing kids to the wonders of nature and all the emotional and mental growth that it fosters and is passionate about raising children's environmental awareness.

She has almost two years experience working with kids in nature and has completed the training In Bloom in Asheville: Promising Practice in Nature Based Early Childhood Education. She graduated in 2002 as a practicing LMBT and earned certifications in Aromatherapy, Ethics, and Nuat Boran/Thai Bodywork.

 

 

Erin Gross

Farm School Program Facilitator

Erin has always had a love for the outdoors, and feels most at ease while exploring our natural world. This started when she was a child, growing up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, PA with her family. She spent a lot of time in her backyard, wading through the creek looking for crayfish and playing amongst the trees. She enjoys fueling children’s curiosity by exploring the outdoors with them. During her free time she enjoys hiking, biking, kayaking, crafting, and listening to music.

 

Erin graduated from UNCW in 2012 with a degree in Marine Biology. She was an educator at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher for 7 years, where she discovered just how important a connection to nature is for children’s physical and emotional development. She has a passion for inclusion and working with individuals with disabilities as well, and is currently working towards her Master’s in Recreation Therapy.

 

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Robin Riegel

Homeschool Enrichment Program Facilitator

Robin graduated from East Stroudsburg University with a degree in Elementary Education. She taught for nine years, primarily in 5th grade English and History outside of Philadelphia.

 

Robin’s fondest memories growing up include playing along creeks and bayous while spending endless days in exploration. Her love for the outdoors grew even more after having her son and watching how nature has provided him with endless adventures. Since she believes that fostering a connection to the natural world is imperative for all children, you will likely find her and her son hiking on local trails and playing in any body of water. Robin is thrilled to be apart of Nature Connect, where she can combine her passion for teaching and being in the great outdoors.

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Kevina Casaletto

Homeschool Enrichment Program Facilitator

Kevina was born in Austin, Texas and moved to three other states before settling in North Carolina in 1990. She has always loved exploring new places and is on a constant quest to learn all she can about our local ecosystems! A collector of hobbies, Kevina enjoys hand embroidery with an ecological focus. She uses her embroidery hoops to support organizations working in longleaf restoration and conservation. She loves spending time outdoors and spends her free time camping, hiking, and biking with her husband and two children. 

 

Kevina graduated with a degree in elementary education from UNCW in 2006. After working as a teacher’s assistant and teacher in Wilmington, she served in the Peace Corps with her husband in southern Belize from 2009-2011. She continues to volunteer and be active in her community. She believes feeling the connections between the earth, ourselves, and our community helps ensure we all become stewards for a healthy environment where we all can thrive. Her experiences have taught her that when you learn about something, you appreciate it more. She is dedicated to spreading knowledge and appreciation for our native plants and animals to ensure their protection.

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Sarah Brintle

Farm School Program Facilitator

Sarah feels most at peace in nature. She lives by the ocean and her favorite way to start the day is with the sunrise at the beach. Her love for the outdoors has blossomed since having children as she finds nature to be incredibly grounding and feels Mother Nature is our best teacher.

 

Sarah is a North Carolina native. She graduated from UNC Wilmington in 2006 with a degree in Special Education and taught in a variety of settings over eight years. She has two young children that inspire her to experience this beautiful world through their eyes. Sarah continues to deepen her connection with nature as she spends time outdoors with her family. They often explore their island home on foot, by bike and boat. Sarah is the owner of Flow & Grow Wellness, where she offers yoga for all. She marries her passion for education and yoga through teaching yoga for children and adults with special needs. Sarah also teachers yoga to typically developing children and adults. She especially loves offering these experiences outdoors. 

Meet Our Staff

Staff Mentors & Inspirational Teachers

 

We are incredibly grateful to our teachers and mentors in this work. There are many people that we would like to acknowledge, and this list in no way encompasses them all. Nevertheless, we want to thank these mentors whose teachings we carry with us in our work with Nature Connect.

Tom Hutchings, father of Brinkley Hutchings (Nature Connect's founder) 

Wendolyn Bird, Tender Tracks Nature Preschool

Lauren Hage, Dave Hage, and Will Scott at Weaving Earth Center for Relational Education

Catherine and Jesse Wiens, Play in the Wild!

Maria Nemeth, Academy for Coaching Excellence

Jon Young, Tom Brown and 8 Shields community, including the authors of Coyote's Guide to Connecting with Nature

Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods

Lorene Wapotich, founder of Feet on the Earth

Mia Ander, Vilda Foundation

Keith Winsten, Executive Director of Brevard Zoo

Chris DeLorey "Dr. Dino", Educational Biofacts Inc

Beth Armstrong, Field Conservationist and Author of Voices from the Ape House

Dr. Martha Monroe, Professor & Associate Director, School of Forest, Fisheries, and Geomatics Sciences, University of Florida

Miriam Fulton, mother of Alison Gordon, Elementary Education Teacher, Union County Public Schools