Rita Holmes just signed up. The fact that she was the 10,000th to do so didn’t play into it, because she couldn’t have known. For the Canadian Geographic Education team, however, it’s a major milestone: as of Feb. 2, 2014, that’s how many teachers had joined their burgeoning cross-country community. And it continues to grow.

For Holmes, a Grade 5 teacher at Cherry Hill Elementary in Mission, B.C., joining up for CG Education’s free resources and products was a no-brainer. What interested her most were the easily accessible lesson plans, printable activities, maps, graphics and materials designed to engage students in geography and the natural world.

“We’re stretched thin — all teachers are,” she says. “Cutbacks have really impacted educators across the board, so I’m always looking for great, free resources.”

Even before joining Canadian Geographic Education, Holmes enhanced geographic education in her classroom by taking advantage of company- and grant-sponsored field trips — two per year. Students don hard hats at a mining pit or learn paddling skills at nearby Whonnock Lake, for instance. Once in the wilderness, they’re tasked with identifying the ecology, from cedar trees to salmon berries, and researching their finds online when they return to school.

“I try to help kids develop an interest in nature and their country by sharing my enthusiasm for both,” says Holmes. “Getting kids out into nature is one of the best ways of stimulating an understanding and appreciation.”