Director/Teacher- Outdoor Lab
Christine Payack (a.k.a. Ms. Turtle) is honored to be part of the Outdoor Lab community! She joined the Lab staff in 2016 by way of Jamestown Elementary School (JES) in Arlington where she was a second grade teacher, the Science Lead and supervisor of the fifth grade Green Team. Her colleagues named her the JES Teacher of the Year in 2013-14.
Her public school teaching experience spans over 30 years in VA, NH and Cambridge, MA and also includes working with children and adults in various afterschool, community and environmental centers. Christine’s students called her the “Creature Teacher” because of her love for all animals domestic and wild. She earned a B.Sc. in Animal Ecology and Conservation from the University of Massachusetts- Amherst and a M.Sc. in Environmental Studies from Antioch University (New England) Graduate School. Christine was recognized as the Massachusetts Audubon- Conservation Teacher of the Year in 1995. She is a participant in the Smithsonian’s Migratory Bird Center Bridging the Americas program. In the summer, she teaches at the National Zoo’s Summer Safari Day Camp. Christine brings her passion for the natural world into her work with children –striving to teach children to care about each other and all living things– so they believe they can and will make a difference for the environment today and in the future.
Christine hails from New Jersey. She enjoys reading her field guides, sorting through her “biofacts” and learning as much as she can about nature. She lives with her elegant retired greyhound, friendly cat, former classroom guinea pig and elder cockatiel.
Assistant Director/Teacher- Outdoor Lab
Kate Sydney (aka Ms. Katydid) is excited to join the Outdoor Lab staff in the fall of 2018! While being new to the staff, she is not new to the Outdoor Lab and has participated in nearly 20 overnight trips with her 5th graders in APS. Most recently, Kate was a 5th grade teacher at Glebe Elementary, but has held a variety of positions in her over 16 years in APS. Kate, who became a National Board Certified Teacher in 2005, has been an educator for nearly 30 years. The first 10 years of her career were spent in her home state of Wisconsin. While much of her experience was gained as an elementary classroom teacher, Kate has also held several leadership positions, including working at the state and local level on policy related to educator quality and teacher certification and licensure.
Kate has a passion for teaching science and has pursued professional opportunities in science throughout her career. She has spent time working side by side with scientists around the world to expand her science knowledge. This has included opportunities to band birds in Western Australia, tag wild goats in Greece and tag and track black bears in the US.
While at Glebe, Kate worked to establish an outdoor learning space, including working with her students and the Northern Virginia Audubon Society to establish a wildlife sanctuary, where students could observe urban wildlife. Kate also worked with the Virginia Bluebird Society to establish an Eastern Bluebird Trail on the Glebe campus, and worked with a team of volunteers and her students to monitor the boxes, allowing them the opportunity to practice real-world science.
In her free time, Kate enjoys hiking and learning all that she can about nature! She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband and two pugs.
Staff, Outdoor Lab
Anthony (a.k.a. Mr. Moose) has been working at the Outdoor Lab since 1991.
Anthony went to Northern Virginia Community College and to Prescott College in Central Arizona. His continuing education has included study of native wild edible plants, wildflowers, and amphibians, such as becoming a certified FrogWatcher through the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.
Anthony is also certified as a Wilderness First Responder. Among his many other experiences, he spent the 1997-1998 school year developing and leading programs for State Forests and Parks of Massachusetts under the Student Conservation Association and AmeriCorps. Anthony enjoys playing music, hiking, birdwatching, and exploring and being in the outdoors.
He lives in Front Royal with his wife Na and their son Winslow.
Staff, Outdoor Lab
Jessica (a.k.a. Ms. Bat) joined the Lab Staff in 2017.
Jessica Leslie grew up in a small Hudson River town called Peekskill situated 45 minutes from New York City. There were two Parkland preserves in her back yard and both her parents were avid art lovers, conservationists and organic gardeners. The choice for her was always between hiking in the woodlands or studying art. The art won, Leslie attended SUNY Purchase and graduated with a Bachelors in Fine Art and Art History. Most of her working career was in retail store design.
Along the way she moved to Arlington and chose to live here after she met and married her husband Scott Moore. Together they have one son Nigel who is 24, A salt water tank of crazy beautiful fish and corals , and a fluffy cat Wally. In addition she and her family has enjoyed hosting Rotary Exchange students from 3 different countries Germany, Brazil and Indonesia. “This has been a wonderful way to expand our families knowledge of other countries and build life long friendships” said Leslie. In her free time she enjoys reading, painting, gardening, and exploring the natural world in all her travels.
Jessica began working at the lab as a school based sub in 2007 where she has expanded her knowledge of Virginia’s flora and fauna. Jessica says, “Teaching through observation gives students one of the best learning experiences they can have in school, this is what makes my job at the lab challenging and inspirational as a teacher.”
Staff, Outdoor Lab
We welcome Charlie (a.k.a. Mr Turtle) back to the Outdoor Lab!
Charlie was born and raised in Westover, a neighborhood in Arlington not far from Swanson Middle School. As a student at APS, he attended field trips to the Outdoor Lab. This early exposure to learning in nature, as well as experiences at Arlington nature centers and through the Boy Scouts, helped to define who Charlie is today. He continued to visit the Lab through High School as a student and a volunteer, which included the creation of a small gravel road adjacent to the meadow that served as his Eagle Project for Boy Scouts, and as an intern through the Senior Experience Program.
Charlie has served on the Outdoor Lab staff since 2011, first as a counselor at summer camp, then as a part-time assistant teacher from 2013 to 2015. He believes that providing people with experiences in the outdoors, both educational and recreational, can inspire them to pursue efforts in conservation and to explore and cultivate their relationship with the natural world (other humans included).
Staff, Outdoor Lab
Christopher (a.k.a. Mr ____) joined the staff of the Outdoor Lab in the Fall of 2018.
Serving Arlington Public Schools for nearly a decade, Christopher has worked with a wide variety of students ranging from elementary to post-secondary education.
A Virginia native, Christopher enjoys being outside as often as possible with his family, loves to explore the Shenandoah region, but contends there is nowhere more beautiful than the majestic islands of Hawaii.
He lives in Montclair with his wife and their three daughters.
Maintenance Assistant, Outdoor Lab
We welcome Simon as the new Maintenance Assistant to the staff of the Outdoor Lab! More info soon.