For a majority of our programs, we contract people from around the world to help instruct our Gap Year students; and to lead programs on property. Our instructors are passionate about preserving the Planet and its creation for future generations. The employees and contractors change during the seasons from acclaimed university professors, veterinary clinics, teachers and instructors from various places of practice -- to provide the highest quality programs.

The Cushing family oversees and facilitates daily animal, wildlife and outdoors workshops. They are the foundation for the majority of Earth Studies programs. The family has over 30 years of environmental education and wildlife rehabilitation experiences, whilst being small business owners. Their dedication to preserving the indomitable spirit of wild places ripples throughout their hometown of Ladysmith, Quebec, Canada.

Geoffrey Cushing

Geoffrey Cushing

Co-Founder, CEO, Director of Operations

"Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve."

Geoffrey is the director of operations and special events on our property. .

Geoffrey’s dream to help change the world was born the afternoon he stared across a wind-swept Wyoming ridge during a NOLS course in January 1978. Despite having frozen toes and a craving for mac and cheese, a huge grin creased his face. The vast, rugged beauty of the Rockies that lay before him had touched his young Québécois spirit to the core. And as wild, beautiful places around the world succumbed to globalization, he made a promise to the Creator he would become a voice for the Land.

35 years later, Geoffrey’s vision has blossomed through the dedicated and passionate efforts of the extended Cushing family. Since 2001 the International School for Earth Studies has hosted students - young and old - from four continents. Although the environment and humanity have entered into their 11th hour, Geoffrey finds great hope through the youth he meets at Earth Studies.  He believes their concern, insight and initiative fuel solutions that will create a more respectful and sustainable world.

Geoffrey graduated from Lethbridge Community College with a B.A. in Parks & Recreation. He has also worked as a youth at-risk counselor, canoe instructor and volunteer firefighter.


Jo Ellen Cushing

Co-Founder, Animal Behaviourist, Director of Animal Operations

"Who will speak up for the rights of Mother Earth?"

Having the Rocky Mountains of Southern Alberta as her childhood playground, Jo Ellen developed a love and respect for wild places and gained a strong affinity for all critters — great and small.  It was her destiny to be an animal caretaker and she has followed that path for most of her life.

She is forever indebted to her parents for ingraining in her a strong work ethic and the entrepreneur spirit. The dream of raising her four children to adulthood in a wilderness playground and having them involved in her vision of a sustainable planet is a mother’s dream come true. 

She loves puttering in the garden learning her medicinal plants, swimming (when the water temp. is above 75 degrees), riding the trails and dog-sledding (if it isn't too cold.)

Jo Ellen graduated from Lethbridge Community College with a BA in Environmental Science and served in wildlife conservation as one of Alberta’s provincial game officers.


Corie Jo Cushing

Director of Horses, Site Manager, Sled Dog Trainer, Krav Maga Instructress

"Women who behave rarely make history."

Corie Jo has devoted her life to teaching natural horsemanship and wildlife conservation. She has apprenticed under Jo Ellen and worked extensively with other qualified animal care professionals. She is also a Krav Maga Instructress and personal trainer. 

You can always count on CJ to brew a fresh pot of coffee and tackle the most intimidating projects head on. Her work ethic and ability to see projects through is unmatched. She is the ideal project manager who knows how to get work done fast and efficiently. It is hard not to feel empowered after a long hard day with her.

Her ability to take care of all animal groups and accomplish every single task, while still finding time to sunbathe is legendary. CJ also ensures that everyone finds a home and gains a sense of place while at Earth Studies. Known as a “Mother Hen” who can kick like a horse; run like a wolf; and chainsaw-carve masterpieces for your home.

Aside from the tranquil sounds of nature and the resident animals, one can always expect to hear the famous words “Where’s CJ?”


Janna Lee Cushing

Director of Sled Dog Sports, Krav Maga Instructress

"If you need to find me, I'll be in the forest."

Janna Lee is a private Self-Defense instructress and animal caretaker who has dedicated her life to helping others connect with nature. Her larger than life character and personality will gain your respect and admiration.

You will never meet a more passionate animal-people teacher capable of leaving you utterly speechless and tongue tied. When the right time presents itself, ask about her experiences in the Yukon Quest, Rocky Mountains and travels across Canada.

JL will quickly become part of your family. She is an outstanding teacher, babysitter, body-guard and nature photographer. After she has finished her daily tasks at Earth Studies, expect to find her managing the local lumber mill or teaching self-defense seminars in Ottawa.


Derek Cushing

Part-time: Director of Cushing Mews, Master Fly-Fishing Instructor

"Most questions about the future can be answered by looking into the past."

Derek is an old soul and a true gentleman. He is very level-headed individual in the face of danger and always has good critical advice. He loves being outdoors and researching all its wonders. His dream vacation is digging in the badlands of Alberta after a long day of fly-fishing in the Rocky Mountains.

His passion for human history and culture is unsurpassed. Buried underneath his knowledge you will discover his childhood love of dinosaurs -- he fascinated by prehistoric existence and learns from yesterday to live life better tomorrow.

Derek is currently doing his undergraduate at Carleton University in Environmental Studies and working as a fly fishing guide in British Columbia during the summer months. He plans on being a professor of Paleontology and teacher of natural history. He is a professional model painter of both Warhammer and LOTR miniatures.

Kirk Cushing

Part-time: Dog Behavior Consultant, Outreach Coordinator, Videographer & Producer

"Remember, it's about respect. To learn, we must listen and observe their rules."

President of The Dog Masters LLC ( a dog behavior consulting company, Kirk lives in Colorado with his wife and dog. He works with Earth Studies remotely on marketing and filmmaking. When he visits Earth Studies, you will find him neck-deep in mud, working on habitat regeneration projects, teaching canoe workshops or working with students on how to be dog savvy. His passion is sled dog sports and helping others understand their dogs. Kirk is also known for his lumberjack, axe and chainsaw wielding abilities.

Kirk is a graduate of Algonquin College in business management and Carleton University for Environmental Studies.