Our Founder

Meet Margaret


In the winter of 2007, Margaret started The Elements D.C. so her four kids and friends could get outdoors and avoid cabin-fever. They were delighted to be amongst a group of friends, exploring the winter woods, playing new games, and experiencing activities that don’t happen in organized sports or on screens.

As the founder and the director, the special angle Margaret brings is the perspective of a mom. As a mother of four, she's always aware of safety. She also knows what parents want in a top-notch program.

Margaret was raised in Richmond, VA where her happiest childhood memories are of playing kick-the-can with her sisters and brother or hacking, on horseback in the woods with her parents. Many a summer day were spent clearing stone walls, digging post holes and swimming in the pond on a family farm in the mountains.  She acclimated to colder climates during her years at the University of Vermont. While there she worked as a dairy-maid on Shelburne Farms and then went on to earn a degree in Landscape Design at George Washington University. It was through these experiences and parenting her children that she realized the importance and impact of time spent outdoor and experiential learning. She is Wilderness First Aid trained and certified. She now lives in NW Washington with her husband and kids.


Margaret Rietano

Founder, Director, Site Leader

Margaret is also a Guide!

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Our Guides

Meet Fran & Celine

When we're running programs for adults, they call us 'the guides' (and their friends). When we're running programs for kiddos, they call us 'the mamas'.

Fran Barnes

Fran Barnes

Assistant to Director, Site Leader

Fran's love of the outdoors was established during her childhood in Maine. Fran's mother would often say, “Go outside and play.” Fran and her eight siblings took heed and did exactly that. As the youngest, Fran spent a lot of time chasing her brothers and sisters in the woods, on hiking trails, and on the ski slopes.

Fran is a former summer camp counselor, NOLS graduate, avid runner, and mother to two girls who receive the same advice to play outside. Fran believes strongly in the power of nature and is passionate about getting kids and adults outdoors for fresh air, exercise, and play. Additionally, she enjoys combining time outside with her exploration of mindfulness. She finds that the woods are a great place to introduce the practice. 

Fran is a board member of The City Kids Wilderness Project, a DC non-profit organization (and Elements partner non-profit) that was founded on the belief that providing enriching life experiences for under resourced DC children can enhance their lives, the lives of their families and the greater community. Elements and City Kids have a long relationship. Each year high school students from City Kids work on the Elements staff.

Celine Delany

Celine Delany

Hiking Guide

Despite living in Washington, DC for the last 15 years, Celine continues to be surprised with all the incredible opportunities in DC to be in the outdoors. Celine taught Outdoor Education while attending Georgetown University and is a NOLS Alaska graduate.  After teaching secondary education in France for a year, Celine obtained a master’s degree in education before deciding to go an entirely different route post-graduation. She joined the team of the late Chef Michel Richard at Citronelle in Washington, DC until she and her husband had their first son. Now a mother to three super active young boys, spending time in great outdoors is a necessity!

The Elements for Kids program is what surreptitiously brought Celine to The Elements for Adults. Celine, her husband, and her three boys spend the vast majority of the time enjoying the outdoors of Washington, D.C. (and other regions of the country and the world as much as possible!). Celine is an avid trail runner, skier, camper, and hiker.

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We’re always Hiring


Our Crew

Join the Crew

Our crew is made up of professional and outgoing college and high school students. Our applicants go through a rigorous application process and Elements training. We are especially pleased that each year, on average, 65% of our crew are returning applicants. Rest assured – our crew are the very best!


Our Interns

Intern Partnership

We also hire paid interns from our partner non-profit, City Kids Wilderness Project. What ties us all together is our love of the outdoors and kids.


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