Bullfrog Founders Club
For educator, public speaker, author and Bullfrog Founders Club member Harry “Skid” Crease, learning and the outdoors have always gone hand in hand. Over 35 years, Crease has been teaching students of all ages, from grade school to university and kick-started some of the most well-known Ontario outdoor education programs. He is internationally renowned for his speeches at environmental conferences and workshops.
Crease sums up his initial teaching years simply: “I spent most of my time trying to get my kids outdoors. Out of the classroom.” As a first step, he booked every available field trip to Forest Valley Outdoor Education Centre for the entire year for his classes. “[Other teachers] weren’t taking them,” he explains, almost incredulous. “I ended up getting 12 days of field trips.”
But field trips weren’t always available for students. Early on in his career, schools had little funding, and students were from low-income families. But that didn’t dissuade him from getting his students outdoors. “I used to walk them everywhere, even if it was just a park or a ravine,” he says. Later on, through his guidance, his students would become more involved with the environment, working on naturalization projects, litter-free school campaigns and, in one case, an award-winning community garden.
From 1986 to 1996, Crease was tapped to become Program Leader and Site Manager for Mono Cliffs Outdoor Education Centre. “It was an awesome experience,” he says, but also recalls breaking the news to the public school class that he was leaving. “They were really upset, because I was going to take them on to Grade 8.”
After his tenure at Mono Cliffs, Crease accepted a three-year secondment at York University, where he served as environmental sciences advisor and course director for the Faculty of Education. Today, Crease is the president of ecoNexus, a non-profit environmental awareness organization, having previously served as the Director of Outdoor Programs for the Earth Rangers Foundation and worked additionally on outdoor education programs for the Kortright Centre for Conservation.
Crease believes that environmental education has direct, practical benefits for children. He cites his experience at Bolton Outdoor Education Centre, where students spent their time outdoors hiking on trails, running through high ropes courses, and playing problem solving games in the wilderness. “They were the healthiest students in North America,” he claims.
He also believes environmental learning fosters critical thinking. “You don’t have to create artificial issues for your kids,” he says. “For example, ‘How are we going to feed 10 billion people on one little planet in the year 2050?’ That’s a good math problem. It’s also a good social studies problem and a good political studies problem, too.”
Crease holds nature in a deeply emotional context, and he attributes his love for the outdoors to his father. “I think my biggest hero is my dad, and we went on a lot of camping and fishing trips; just hiking out in the woods,” he recalls. “He had great philosophies in life, and one was, ‘Always leave your campsite cleaner than you found it.’ It was a basic tenet that I grew up with.”
It’s a lesson that he still holds close today. “I’m a human being. I have a really big impact on this system,” Crease said of the earth’s natural balance. “Every decision I make is going to affect the balance of that system one way or another. For me, in the 21st century, there is no sitting on the fence.”
In addition to bullfrogpowering his home, Crease ensures that all of the products he purchases are ethically and sustainably sourced. He uses a hybrid electric automobile to serve his family’s transportation needs. Most of all, he believes creativity is the key to living sustainably.
“We can live elegantly with less,” he said. “There’s nothing we don’t have that we don’t need. We know we have the power to either flip this planet over or save what we’ve got.”
And if anyone believes that children are the key to the future, it’s Skid Crease: “Kids just get it.”