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Image by Angelo Pantazis

Ready for Anything

Saplings students learn to be adaptable and responsive to both the natural world and its many communities in their daily inquiries both outside and in. Staff are ready to allow for student interests and passions to guide our explorations, creating a unique synergy between student-centered learning and the BC curriculum. We are always ready to go no matter what we may get up to.  

Saplings’ goal is for students to acquire the skills and habits of mind to be self aware with increasing independence. Educators focus on explicit fostering of students’ capacity over time to be their own best assessors. Students gaining independence does not diminish the teachers responsibilities but rather extends the role to include designing instruction and assessment that allows all students to think about, and monitor, their own learning. Self-monitoring and evaluation are complex and difficult skills that do not develop quickly or spontaneously.  In addition to the formal assessment and overall observations, educators provide students with ideas for adjusting, rethinking, and articulating their understanding, which will lead to another round of feedback and another extension of learning.

Nature’s Classroom

What better place to learn about our natural world than in it? Saplings students learn first hand about our environment in their daily exploratory experiences. They learn to seek answers to their own questions and explore their personal curiosities while at the same time gain an awareness of our roles and responsibilities toward this planet and all the creatures upon it.

By taking students outside the traditional classroom and into a dynamic natural environment, students build resilience, practice balance, enjoy social growth, and deepen their relationship with nature, themselves, one another, their community and the world. . Saplings’ students become intimately tied to their natural environment, the beautiful North Shore of Vancouver, where they learn about themselves, take important risks, develop empathy, hone a sense of wonder, and develop a meaningful relationship with the earth.

Getting to know our Neighbours

Learning from all of our neighbours is an important part of Sapling’s immersive experience.  Understanding that we are one part of an incredible and diverse whole allows our students to embrace and appreciate diversity in all its forms. From traditional usage of plants, to understanding the community that either lies beneath, lives in, or resides nearby, our daily entanglements offer our students rich and incomparable learning experiences.

By being together and grounding themselves in relationship, attention, wonder, and more-than-human inclusion, educators help awaken the student’s own innate knowledge and potential. Through a student-first pedagogy using a long-term multiliteracy approach and encouraging multimodal expressions of learning, Saplings educators embrace the dynamic nature of the learning process.  

Community Building

One of Sapling’s main features is the multi-age classroom approach.  Students’ individual needs are better met by allowing students of all ages many opportunities to collaborate based on skill and interest rather than simply their age. It also allows for a greater understanding of diversity as our students enjoy many rich and varied traditions, knowledge and experiences.

Exploring our indoor spaces helps student’s synthesize and showcase their learning. Through creating large, long-term projects, Saplings’ students build the important life skills of self awareness, self-advocacy, question-posing, observation, research, thinking critically, and individual and group work. Saplings’ get to apply what they know to hands-on, memorable experiences.


Saplings encompasses personalized and place-based learning, where learning experiences are adapted to the individual and the local environment to enhance student engagement and choice. We envision learning and being as a holistic process that happens as children and adults come together in relationship with each other, ideas, materials, places, and histories. By attending to the ‘living inquiries’ and ‘pathways’ Saplings educators have intentionally shifted their practice to an ongoing, constantly evolving model of knowledge creation.

The more than Human world

By attending to their everyday small encounters with others (including people, animals, plants, water, and places) and recognizing how the world affects us—even as we affect it, our students become adept in understanding their own complex emotions and responses, thus Saplings’ prioritizes each student’s needs.

Inquiring into the world around us

One of our fellow educators brought in an abandoned bird’s nest this week. We took some time to share what we noticed, and asked some questions. We were surprised to see how many different materials were used, and how perfectly sphere-like the inside was.

“I notice moss.”

“There’s a lot of grass, and dirt in there.”

“I think it’s a crow’s nest!”


Feeling inspired by the nest and the craftsmanship of birds, we made our own nests using found natural materials. The students took turns sitting on the ‘eggs’ in the ‘nests,’ protecting them from predators and keeping them warm. There is endless creativity, learning and engagement when we feel inspired by nature! 

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