Suzanne Ratnayake

Youth Instructor: Flying Squirrels

Credentials
  • USA Archery Level 1 Instructor

Biography

Suzanne spent her largely free-range childhood in a small town in central Indiana where she befriended maples and mud puddles alongside her siblings in their backyard, chased tadpoles in the Big Blue River, and dodged cow patties while playing tag on her aunt and uncle’s dairy farm in the summertime. Later, she attended Indiana University in Bloomington, where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Biology and Spanish. Perhaps more importantly, this is where she first discovered her desire for learning bird language at Griffy Lake during one intense semester of Ornithology. Her travel bug was soon to follow, and she moved to Madrid, Spain to better learn the Spanish language, but often skipped class to head to the city park to observe the magpies, or to catch a cheap flight to Ireland where she ended up staying a month with her eyes wide open to take in the stunning lush, green, and rocky landscape of the western side of the island. After teaching English as a Second Language to children and adults in Rome, Italy, for several years, Suzanne returned to Indiana to obtain her master’s degree in Social Work with a concentration in Mental Health. She worked with both adults and children in a variety of clinical settings and then she became a mom. She is profoundly grateful for the opportunity she has had to parent her two (now elementary-aged) children full-time. Itching for community and hands in the soil, she volunteered as the garden coordinator at the local Montessori school where her kids attended preschool. There she saw an opportunity to provide more in-depth nature connection for her children and their peers. She spearheaded efforts to create an outdoor classroom in an adjacent unused greenspace at their school, organized a committee to plan and shape the space, and soon enough served as the school’s outdoor educator for a few years. Always seeking to deepen her own connection with nature and like-minded community members, she learned more about White Pine after sending her son to one of our summer camps a few years ago. Shortly after, she became a VillageKeeper with the Tree Frogs (and later, Instructor) and enrolled in the Shikari Mentors Pathway—a nine-month generalist nature connection educator program–at White Pine. During this time, she also studied to become a Certified Indiana Master Naturalist at Eagle Creek Park. She believes that children learn best when they are met where they are in their developmental and social-emotional growth process and when they are seen as capable and independent learners. She also believes that nurturing the mentor-student relationship is essential for authentic learning to take place, along with a healthy dose of wonder, imagination, dirt-time, gratitude, and a whole lot of fun.