Our Approach to Curriculum

Saplings aspires to foster a student’s lifelong connection to place by using the materials around us to learn while we explore our local community’s natural playground.  By fostering an intimate daily relationship with the natural world, suffused with observations and questions, our indoor and outdoor classrooms are saturated with emergent moments of inquiry, sensory entanglements, spontaneous learning opportunities, provocative conversations, and meaningful connections.

These connections to self, others, and place foster students’ lifelong understanding of the need for sustainable practices, while at the same time attending to their social-emotional needs.  Seen as imaginative, inquisitive, and resourceful agents, students are given opportunities to link what they are thinking about to what they already know by operating fully with and in place.

Saplings is attentive to the BC curriculum, and so focuses on BC’s key subject areas including English Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies, Applied Design, Skills and Technology, and  Art, Career, Physical, and Health Educations.  The BC curriculum has been designed to respond to the demanding world our students are entering. Like the BC curriculum, Saplings aims to be learner-centered, flexible, and focused on literacy and numeracy while supporting deeper learning through concept- based and competency-driven approaches.

Big ideas and thinking skills lay the foundations for our project-based inquiries in which key content, concepts, competencies, and skills that foster higher-order thinking allows students of varied ages to work together to discover and share their own expertise while examining differing perspectives and making connections between topics of study. In this way, students become adept in practicing the habits of mind which will lead them to discover and share not only what they are thinking, but how.

Our curriculum is project-based, and so is aimed to teach students a variety of skills and content relevant to their lives and interests.  All of our projects are led by the students’ interests, and are based in inquiry methodology which depends heavily on the explicit teaching of research, analytical, and thinking skills. In order to support learners in processing information and interacting intellectually, students are encouraged to use Thinking Routines, and are provoked into delving deeply into their learning through dialogue and guidance. 

Students are encouraged to delve deeply and follow thier interest while covering different aspects of the curriculum.  Knowledge is an experience of collaborative construction.  Children “realize” projects and bring them to life by finding the story that peaks thier interests.  Projects aim to integrate components of literacy, math, science, socials, and the arts into each topic, thereby drawing the connections between the content and the core competencies as outlined in the BC curriculum. Here’s how…


Our science curriculum is designed to support our students’ growing connection to the world around them, specifically our outdoor classroom areas.  With an abundance of natural processes apparent and available to the students during the 3-4+ hours they spend outside daily, science is approached live in action. Inquiries surround what is going on at the time combined with the students’ observations and interests.

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.  Based on the idea that nature is a powerful teacher and challenging the idea that we as humans are separate from it, Saplings invites children into the natural world as a classroom.

Our outdoor classroom spaces contains forest, stream, and more urban areas and so provides a rich diversity of experience. Students discuss conservation, sustainability, responsibility, and reciprocity, and gain awareness that we are all part of one large system.  Supported through daily free and guided  inquiry sessions, frequent discussions, as well as the Learning in Depth program. The outdoor classroom provides many spontaneous learning opportunities, allowing students to make connections between themselves, the broader community and the world.  It gives children a multi-sensory, embodied experience.


Our literacy program is designed to engage students in the writing, reading, oral, visual, and physical skills used to understand and convey meaning. Our teachers use the Whole Language Approach which seeks to make writing and reading relevant to the children by embedding literacy in everyday acts. The aim is to help students understand that language is a system whose parts work together.  Assessment is aided by the Dolch primer test and supported by a variety of activities including, but not limited to, daily quiet reading, differentiated reading and writing groups based on readiness, oral storytelling practice, student read-alouds, sounds of the week for early learners, literacy centers, book studies for more ready learners, and journal writing. 

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Our math curriculum seeks to prepare students to apply their skills in a variety of real-life, approachable situations. Embedded within our project inquiries, students learn the connections between mathematical concepts and the real world.  Students learn math skills including, but not limited to, graphing, measurement, arrays, functions, comparison, and patterning through interaction with physical and visual representations and introductions to more complex mathematical concepts as students become ready. Supported by student-lead class initiatives (class economy, fundraisers, and design projects etc.), math centres, complex reasoning games, differentiated math groups based on readiness and ability, and skills development lessons.

Saplings K-4 Program 

Saplings Outdoor Program

Spring & Summer Camps

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Phone: 778-838-0335

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