Helping educators provide meaningful learning experiences beyond the classroom

What is the ODC Education Network?

The Education Network was created in 2016 in an effort to provide consultation services and professional development training to connect student learning to the outdoors. Our staff work with educators, administrators and members of the community to build and provide nature-based experiences for students. Leading by example, our mission is to provide access to high quality experiences that bring together communities, children, educators and their natural world. Together we learn the work by doing the work!

Reimagining Education

Changing Where Learning Happens

Our work connects teachers and students to spaces beyond the classroom on a consistent and routine basis. By immersing learners in context rich environments students develop a better attitude towards learning and core memories that lead to higher performance and long term academic success.
Benefits of learning beyond the classroom

Building Meaningful Relationships

We support the sustainability of the work through long term growth minded relationships with a wide range of stakeholders in the educational system. Creating conditions where voices are balanced through strong collaboration. Supporting families, developing relationships, and meeting the needs of caregivers are essential for students to learn.

Transforming Methods of Learning

We deepen learning to better support student and teacher literacy, caretaking of our community resources, and development of love of learning and teaching. This work hinges on the advancement of critical thinking, problem solving, and agile decision making. These traits on a strong foundation of literacy are proven to significantly impact learning outcomes long term.

Types of Partnerships


Outdoor enrichment opportunities can be a fantastic way to kick start a relationship with the ODC Education Network. 

Schools or organizations can partner with the ODC team to provide a semi-consistent and ongoing experience that places students and teachers outdoors with an engaging activity.

Experiences are customized to the school location, time available and building values to maximize learner engagement.

Out of School Programs

The ODC Education Network team is committed to supporting school districts in initiatives to support students during out of school time.

Summer school programming is a great way to begin incorporating nature based learning into the fabric of the learning experience. Most summer school programing includes ODC curriculum extensions, on the ground teachers and experts and programmatic support.

Away from summer school support, the ODC team is also open to customizable support for after school programs. 

Ambassador Connected School

Ambassadors are ODC Education Network educators that specialize in working alongside teachers and students to provide consistent and ongoing access to meaningful learning beyond the four walls of the classroom.

The ambassador team strives to help change where learning happens, change the types of learning experiences teachers and students have, and strengthen relationships between educators and students with their communities and natural world.

In this setting, ambassadors spend time co-planning and co-teaching alongside teachers while developing relationships with leadership and students.

Reimagining School Partner

Are you interested in reimagining education at a building level? If so, a Reimagine Education partnership is the deepest level of collaboration involving the ODC Education Network team.

 Through the interactions and relationships from a team of ambassadors, the entire framework of learning is worked on. 

Student experiences become deeper and more consistent. Teachers strengthen their capacity and connections to create deeper learning experiences. 

Building leadership innovates conditions that support the work of teachers and students. District leadership ensures cohesion of work to support the system. 

Finally, the ODC Education Network team, alongside community partners, bring resources and collaborative relationships to the building. 


Natural play and learn spaces are becoming more popular due to the importance of getting children back outside and away from the screens and sedentary lifestyles they’ve become accustomed to. Natural play enhances cognitive abilities, reduces stress, improves self-discipline, and encourages imaginative play and active life styles.

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Our Team

Our experienced team of outdoor education professionals boasts a wealth of expertise in nature-based curriculum development and implementation. We’ll assist your staff and classrooms with the facilitation of impactful outdoor learning opportunities custom-tailored to your unique needs.

Bob Wandel

Education Network Director
Prior to starting at ODC, Bob taught nature-based middle school for the Hamilton Community Schools' STREAM School program. Bob has been involved with the OAISD FuturePrep'd Design thinking and has his Masters in Business Management. He appreciates that the ODC's team is highly committed to their community. He lives on the northside of Holland with his wife Kelly and daughters Ellie and Riley.

Ted Malefyt

Education Network Manager
Ted joined ODC because has a desire to provide more support for schools and teachers wanting to have meaningful learning experiences outdoors. He was led to this field because he has a deep belief that it is a human right to have ongoing access to the natural world. He enjoys rethinking education by giving students a chance to learn outside the four walls of a classroom. He enjoys fishing, mountain biking with family, traveling, and learning in his spare time.

Robby Cramer

Education Network Ambassador
Robby joined the ODCN delighted to have the opportunity to work outdoors with teachers and administrators as they find joy in becoming scientists. Her Michigan State Univ. degrees include a BA in Elementary Teaching and MA in Curriculum & Teaching with an emphasis on Creative and Critical Thinking. After retiring as a teacher and administrator in Grand Haven, she continued as Executive Director of the Michigan Science Teachers Association. She was active in the adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards in Michigan.

Bree DeWeerdt

Education Network Ambassador
Bree received her degree in Elementary Education and from Calvin University. Her career started as a middle school math and science teacher where she saw the value of incorporating nature-based learning into her classroom. She also has a Masters degree with a focus on STEM education and the benefits of nature based education which gives her a vast set of resources to help teachers find comfort teaching in the outdoors. When she is not teaching, she loves playing tennis and pickleball and enjoys sewing.

Ruth Cronk

Education Network Ambassador
Ruth retired from Zeeland Public Schools after 32 years of teaching. She has a passion for engaging students in outdoor adventures and learning making the chance to work with the ODC Network a welcome opportunity. In her free time, Ruth enjoys walking for exercise and exploring a variety of natural areas. You can also find her reading a book and discussing it with her book club and spending time with family and friends.

Tom Kelly

Education Network Ambassador
Tom is a retired elementary science teacher from the Grandville Public Schools. He received his bachelor's degree from Northern Michigan University and his MS in education from Michigan State University. He began working for the ODC Network in 2018 sharing his love of the outdoors and his knowledge of the natural sciences. When he is not teaching, he enjoys hiking and bird watching.

Keera Lung

Education Network Ambassador

Sarah Malefyt

Education Network Ambassador
Sarah's desire to work with students and teachers brought her to the Education Network. She loves providing new opportunities for students to have engaging interactions with the natural world and their community. It is her hope that, through intentional interactions, students grow in their love for the natural world and their community leading them to be life long caretakers of the earth and community builders. Outside of work she likes to spend time with family and friends, reading, and visiting new places.

Emily Myaard

Education Network Ambassador
Emily joined the Education Network after a decade of teaching in a traditional classroom. She earned her degree in Secondary Ed from Hope College and taught social studies and psychology. Her recognition of the tremendous impact that learning in nature has on students and teachers lead her to the ODC. She understands the challenges and value in blending traditional curriculum with meaningful outdoor experiences. Outside of work, she spends time on the lake or in the woods with her husband and two young children.

Paige Prins

Education Network Ambassador
Paige received her bachelors in Social Work from Grand Valley State University. She worked for Holland Public Schools providing academic and behavioral support to students. Her path changed when she came to ODC where she could spend time outdoors while also helping teachers and students find value in their outdoor learning. When not teaching, she enjoys hiking, camping and biking in West Michigan with her husband Logan. She also enjoys reading and spending time on their homestead tending to her gardens.

Melissa Sayre

Education Network Ambassador
Melissa had been an educator with East Grand Rapids Public Schools for over 34 years. She had a classroom with access to a small woods which allowed her to teach outside. She believes there is no better way to educate children and is thankful she was able to work in a district that allowed her to embrace outdoor education. Melissa enjoys hiking, running, gardening, skiing and snowshoeing. She loves to travel and is the proud mom of four and an aged Labrador.

Jodi Sikma

Education Network Ambassador
A retired elementary school teacher who recognized the benefits of taking her classroom outdoors, Jodi now works to help other teachers and school leaders reap the rewards of doing the same. Her work primarily involves what she calls “curriculum curating”. Jodi loves finding ideas that not only get kids outside to enjoy nature, learn something new, and strengthen their skills, but also connect to state curriculum standards.

Emily Slagter

Education Network Ambassador
Emily received her degree in Early Childhood Ed and Youth Ministry from Calvin University. She taught 1st Grade at Holland Christian's Forest School for several years after graduating. She loves that she has the opportunity to work with so many teachers and students now helping them explore conservation and education outside of a traditional classroom. When she isn't working, she spends time traveling, hiking and exploring with her husband and two dogs. She is also an active player and coach of soccer and basketball.

What Others are Saying About Us

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