Democratic Nature School (ages 5-9) 

"The most effective kind of education is that a child should play amongst lovely things." (Plato)

We are honoured to live, work, and play on the unceded Coast Salish  territories of the Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), Səl̓ílwətaʔ  (Tsleil-Waututh), and xxʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) peoples.

At the Democratic Nature School, learning takes place outdoors at Everett Crowley Park and surrounding green spaces in the Vancouver area. We will participate in the stewardship program supported by the Parks Board, while indoor maker space will be accessible to facilitate indoor activities thanks to the support of the Champlain Heights Community Association.


The Democratic Nature School’s roots are firmly planted in our love for Windsor House School, which thrived for close to fifty years as part of an international community of democratic learners. As such, we follow the principle of engaging children in learning through democratic and non-coercive methods.

Please note that this is an enrichment program for families who register with the Island Discovery Program.

Parent participation is required. Workshops on communication and community building will be also offered.

Local Programs and Organizations We Love 

  • The Youth Makerspace at the Pod & Purple Thistle (email us for information on program offerings)

  • The Theatre Program at the Revue Stage Granville Island (email us for information on program offerings)

  • Transforming Education Society (TES)

  • Champlain Heights Community Association

  • The Learnery

Program Details

Democratic Nature School
  • We are taking applications for January enrollment and fall 2020 enrollment. Contact Tricia:

  • South-East Vancouver, Champlain Heights & Everett Crowley Park

  • Outdoors in the morning - indoor space available 12-3  

  • A self-directed and play-based nature program for ages 5-9

  • Tuesdays (possibly adding Thursdays depending on enrollment)

  • $75 per month, with scholarship applications are available on request. 

**All participants must enroll in Island Discovery’s public Distributed Learning Program**

A Typical Day

at Democratic Nature School 

What does a typical day involve at Democratic Nature School? 

  • Free play and exploration of the natural environment 

  • Planting and restoration of Everett Crowley Park through the stewardship program, including taking care of mason bees

  • Creating with natural and upcycled materials

  • Harvesting and cooking of plants

  • Hands-on work with traditional skills and crafts

  • Co-creation of learning activities

  • Community building and connection to the wider community

  • Learning about Indigenous voices, pedagogy, and practice

  • Field trips to local areas of interest


Our Values

At Democratic Nature School, we foster a love of learning through play. We honour and value diversity and engage with respect toward each other and our natural environment. We acknowledge and respect Indigenous ways of knowing, being, and doing. 

 "Good schools, like good societies and good families, celebrate and cherish diversity." Deborah Meier

We value:


  • Self-directed learning in a non-coercive environment

  • Multi-age groupings

  • Nature-based play

  • Parent participation

  • Gratitude for and connection with each other and our environment

  • Communication that respects everyone’s needs

  • Freedom with responsibility

  • Diversity and inclusion

  • Respect for local First Nations values and history.



Our Inspiration

Democratic Inquiry-Based Learning

“Creativity is a type of learning process where the teacher and pupil are located in the same individual.” Arthur Koestler


The democratic process strengthens communication and collaboration. This allows students to take charge of their learning, which provides a sense of independence, responsibility, and accountability. We value strong attachments between caregivers and children, and welcome family and parent engagement, collaboration, and respectful communication. A true democracy is one in which every person can contribute, and the diversity of those contributions serves to strengthen the whole.


Inquiry-based learning occurs in collaboration with teachers, who respond to the students’ natural curiosities, interests, and discoveries with further questioning, resources, and activities. This provides a safe space for young people to engage in creative, discovery-based thinking.


Staff and Parents

Child to Adult Ratios

The full capacity for the program is 18 students. The adults include the BCTF certified teacher, an additional mentor teacher, and parents and/or community volunteers. We have a maximum 1:9 ratio of staff to students. With the addition of our parent and community volunteers, we often have a much lower adult to child ratio.


The Fresh Air Learning elementary program is funded and administered by the Powell River School District through the Island Discovery Distributed Learning program and facilitated by a B.C. certified teacher. This teacher also provides support to families for their home- and community-based learning. We have chosen to use the children’s additional learning funds to hire a second teacher for the program. Meet our teachers here!

Parent Participation and Learning

We believe families are central to children’s learning. We ask that all families contribute to our program in some way, either by volunteering with the children or by volunteering to assist our program behind the scenes. Parents are welcome to participate as volunteer teachers, assist with special events, and attend parent sharing and education evenings.

© 2015 by Fresh Air Learning  |  604-802-7539