Brinkley Hutchings

Founder, Director, Program Facilitator

Brinkley spent most of her childhood exploring and playing on the beach along Mobile Bay. One of her favorite things to do was make bowls out of the natural clay found on the bluffs. Brinkley is inspired by children's sense of wonder, curiosity, and play, and she 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 so grateful to establish Nature Connect in her hometown. Brinkley is the director for both our Alabama and North Carolina chapters. She is also a certified coach and consultant for other nature schools.

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Andrea Herring

Program Facilitator

Andrea finds beauty, peace, and joy in the outdoors and experiences its positive effects on her and her children. She grew up spending her summers on a lake in NY enjoying water sports and nature. She has been fortunate to live in several different coastal communities in her travels as a military spouse. Each community has unique experiences from the sugary sands of the Gulf Coast to the overwhelming mountains and sights of whales breaching in Alaska. Whenever possible, she tries to visit national and state parks to pass along the experience of adventure and outdoors to her 3 daughters. Andrea’s curiosity and fondness of science led her to get a BS in Biology. Working with children is both a rewarding and continuous learning opportunity for her. She has volunteered in her children’s classes, assisted and enriched her children’s virtual school experience and worked as a preschool aide and teacher. She is excited to be a part of the Nature Connect team to inspire the leaders and explorers of tomorrow!

Ashley Griffin

Program Facilitator 

Ashley grew up going camping almost every weekend with her family. This built a strong connection with nature early on in her life. Growing up, she always knew she wanted to work somewhere that would give her the freedom to explore the outdoors. Ashley obtained a B.S. in Biology, and it wasn’t until her last semester of college when she realized she wanted to go into environmental conservation work. She took an entry level position in conservation, and while working there, she learned that the first step in conservation is education. That’s when Ashley found Nature Connect! She knew that an organization that values teaching young children about the importance of our environment was the right choice for her. Ashley enjoys sharing her knowledge of and passion for nature with the curious children at Nature Connect. Her favorite part about working with children is watching them question everything. Ashley is looking forward to exploring, discovering, questioning, and learning with all the children that join Nature Connect.

Jade Parker

Program Facilitator

 

Jade Parker is originally from Montevallo, Alabama where she got her teaching certification and taught her first preschool class! She has been a preschool teacher for three years since then. She moved to Mobile, Alabama after getting married to her husband who works at the University of South Alabama. Her passion for working with children began many years ago when she was asked to be a Vacation Bible School leader. She knew she wanted to make a difference in the lives of children. She loves the excitement on their faces when they learn something new! She loves the confidence they gain when they are able to accomplish something that was once challenging for them. She enjoys being with the children and watching them interact with one another and the world around them. Seeing the world from the eyes of a child is truly a beautiful sight. Her goal is to always provide a nurturing environment for the children to feel that they can learn and grow and be themselves. When she was growing up she enjoyed going down the river with her grandparents in their canoe, she loved riding her bike through her neighborhood, she loved to swim in the lake, go camping, explore the bamboo forest that grew behind her home, and play in the mud! She went for snail hunts a lot and always tried to keep them for pets. She had all kinds of animals growing up (cats, chickens, dogs, horses, donkeys, and goats) and enjoyed helping take care of them. She spent a great amount of time outside as a kid and feels that it really helped  to use her imagination while playing and allowed her to see the beauty that the world holds beyond our front yard.

Amy Smith

Program Facilitator

Amy grew up on a series of parks near Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans and spent her childhood playing outside with her four siblings and neighborhood friends. She remembers that when the grass was freshly mowed, they built farms with the “hay”; when storms blew down palm branches, they constructed huts with the limbs; when heavy rain flowed, they splashed in makeshift swamps. Then and now Amy loves being outside, whether it's running, biking, boating, hiking, or just watching her three children play in the yard. Until a few years ago, Amy and her husband were raising their children on these same parks when they received an opportunity to move to Germany. Filled with excitement for this new adventure, they set out at a rapid pace to explore as much as they could. After the first six months, they had visited six different countries! While life in Europe was exciting, they hoped to eventually settle in Fairhope to enjoy everything that the Gulf Coast offers. They received the opportunity in January, 2019, and have enjoyed getting to know this beautiful area of gullies, creeks, rivers, and bay. 

Amy has a B.A. in communications/journalism and an M.F.A. in creative writing. Throughout her career, she has written for a variety of publications, including Mobile Bay Monthly. She also worked for eight years as a public relations coordinator and volunteered as a Girl Scout leader for four years. Now settled in Fairhope, Amy is excited to be a part of the Nature Connect team. Her three children have all come home happy, dirty, and full of excitement after their days in Nature Connect programs!

Laura Counselman

Program Facilitator

Laura Counselman is a native of Mobile, Alabama. She grew up with woods for a back yard and a natural creek down the road. Laura loves the outdoors, and cherishes family hikes and gardening together.  Laura discovered she enjoyed working with children when she began helping with storytime at her school’s library. As an adult Laura worked in the youth services department of a public library were she developed a special program for tweens. Since the birth of her child she has decided to spend those precious, early years exploring with her little one. After a month long cross country camping trip with a two year old, she feels prepared for anything.

Sarah Bogdanovich, LMSW

Staff Development & Team Building Facilitator

 

Sarah was raised on the shores of Mobile Bay, where she learned to throw a cast net and catch bluegill on white bread. After spending two decades away from the area as a military spouse, Sarah is happy to share the wonders of south Alabama with her family and yours. Sarah enjoys leading camps, field trips, and workshops that inspire participants to engage more fully in their environment. She is also a licensed master social worker, focused on helping families build stronger relationships with each other and the natural world. 

Jennifer Clark-Grainger

Program Facilitator 

Jennifer spent every afternoon in the creeks, forests and mountains of South Carolina as a young child, only willing to come in after dark. At 10, she moved to Louisiana, where she was instantly smitten by the Spanish Moss and various swamps. She moved to Alabama in 2005, where she fell in love with kayaking, exploring and learning about the vast number of local waterways. This curiosity motivated her to leave her job in marketing and go back to school for Archaeology. She now has a B.A. in Anthropology and a minor in Fine Arts from the University of South Alabama, where she worked with children for over 5 years in the USA Archaeology Museum. This is where she found her passion for education, programming and working with children. When her child started at Nature Connect, she knew she wanted to be a part of it. On the weekends, she can be found traveling, camping, attending ArtWalks, photographing, singing in a band or exploring with her friends, husband and daughter.

Maria Sullivan 

Program Facilitator 

Maria grew up on a horse farm in North Georgia. She spent most of her childhood camping, hiking, and riding horses. Some of her most memorable childhood moments were spent barefoot in a creek catching crawfish. Maria fell in love with teaching children in high school while volunteering for the Autism Speaks Program. After obtaining her B.B.A in marketing from the University of North Georgia, she began a career in marketing and advertising. Five years into this career path, she realized her true passion was playing outdoors and teaching children. Maria feels inspired every day by the unique sense of wonder and creativity awakened in children while exploring outdoors. Being a part of the Georgia Tribe of Eastern Cherokee has significantly impacted her view of the natural world. She believes that teaching children about their environment is not only necessary for conservation but also for child development.

Meet Our Staff