For seven years, an accomplished educator – Jill Cooper – and an award-winning storyteller – Simon Jackson – have immersed themselves in the Canadian landscape, documenting the remarkable stories of Canada’s biodiversity through GhostBearPhotography.com, an online community that connects a network of 15,000. Throughout their journey, they’ve travelled to small town Saskatchewan and big city Toronto and everywhere in-between to share their tales and listen to what young Canadians think about nature. Their takeaway: Nature unites us all and that by making the seemingly irrelevant relevant, it’s possible to showcase that nothing is black and white and through better education, a more thoughtful citizenry is possible – one that can create a better world for all life.
Jill Cooper understands the real-world problems of today’s schools.
Growing up in rural Ontario, Jill discovered her passion for the outdoors at an early age and discovered in her teens that her professional calling is in education.
For a decade, Jill worked to create connections between technology and nature as a high school geography and media arts teacher, promoting experiential education and leading numerous excursions, including a science-focused field trip to Nicaragua.
When she found resource gaps, Jill worked to fill them – first off the side of her desk and eventually in the full-time pursuit of system-wide education resource development. Jill has advised the establishment of a school council for the Jane Goodall Institute of Canada and helped design of the Spirit Bear Youth Coalition’s award-winning education program. And for the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity she worked to build a new multi-faceted training program that seeks to better equip teachers to execute STEAM techniques.
No matter the project, Jill’s hallmark has been an approach that strives to be fair in her research and communication: Presenting unbiased facts to ignite a passion in others to think critically, work collaboratively and demand better of themselves and our world.
For each endeavour Jill has journeyed, she has proven an understanding of how to develop innovative programming from development to curriculum integration to classroom implementation. It’s this unique insight that is at the heart of the Ghost Bear Institute’s projects.
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Simon Jackson understands what can captivate young minds.
Simon is a storyteller, connector and movement builder who has dedicated his life to finding a better balance between the needs of people and nature.
At the age of 13, Simon founded the Spirit Bear Youth Coalition in the quest to unite the voice of young people to save Canada’s endangered white Kermode or spirit bear. Through the Youth Coalition, Simon led the campaign that helped raise international awareness about the plight of the rare bear, transforming the organization into the world’s largest youth-led environmental movement with a global network of more than 6 million in over 85 countries.
After almost two decades of work, the spirit bear is now saved, with its last intact habitat having been set aside from development through one of the largest land protection measures in North American history.
Simon has received several honours for his work to save the spirit bear, including being awarded Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee Medal, being named as one of the 100 Angels of the Earth by UNESCO and, most notably, being honoured as one of Time Magazine’s sixty Heroes for the Planet – one of only six young people selected from around the world. His life’s work was the focus of an internationally televised movie, Spirit Bear: The Simon Jackson Story.
Simon is an accomplished motivational speaker with agency Speakers’ Spotlight and an award-winning photographer and a widely published writer. Having contributed images and chapters to eight books, he has also had hundreds of essays and opinion editorials published in newspapers, magazines, academic journals, web sites and textbooks around the world – many underpinned by his photography. Simon has served as a columnist for CBC.ca and the Huffington Post and recently co-authored the book A Geography of Hope: Saving Primary Forests. His writing led him to being named a Fellow of the International League of Conservation Writers.
His varied work has enabled Simon to travel coast-to-coast-to-coast to share the lessons from his journey, as his powerful story is a reminder that one person can make a difference. Indeed, Simon’s storytelling ability, combined with his understanding of how successful movements are built, underpins the work of the Ghost Bear Institute.