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Farm School

Southlands Farm Outdoor School

What is the Southlands Farm Outdoor School?

Southlands Farm Outdoor School is are an independent program operating out of Southlands Heritage Farm at 6767 Balaclava St in Vancouver’s Kerrisdale neighbourhood.

Our mission is to engage children in a self-directed learning program that will encourage the development of independent, well-rounded, passionate, engaged, curious, self-motivated, responsible adults.

We are a place for child-focused, self-directed learning. Our children are motivated through place-based play in an outdoor setting with plenty of opportunities to try new topics and find their own ways to approach challenges. This is facilitated by staff who are focused on inspiring curiosity and cultivating an inclusive community.

We loosely follow the education model used by Agile Learning Centres.

Southlands Heritage Farm is a 2.5-Acre property with goats, sheep, chickens, ducks, honey bees, and many horses & ponies. We also operate a weekly farmers market where we sell our own fruits and vegetables. During after-school hours, we offer on-site horseback riding lessons geared to beginners. On weekends we host pony rides and birthday parties, and are open to the public to visit by donation.

Is this a full-time program?

School is 4 days per week, Monday through Thursday, from 9am to 3pm. We follow the same break schedule as Vancouver public schools.

Can my child attend part-time?

If your child does not wish to attend all 4 days per week, or wishes to take days off school, we have no problem with that. If you will be away for an extended period of time or missing a lot of school, there is the option to video-conference with your child’s instructor. We are a small school and very flexible and eager to accommodate.

Are you a real school?

We operate in partnership with the Island Discovery Learning Community, a Distributed Learning branch of School District 47. They provide the resources necessary to meet Ministry requirements, and children from our program are eligible to transfer out at any time to any other school at grade-level. Children that stay with us through Grade 12 (future option) will receive the Dogwood Diploma, the same as any other school in the province.

What is the cost?

The cost is $10,800 +GST per year, payable as $1,080 + GST per month from September through June. We will offer a 10% discount for subsequent children from the same family. There is no discount for attending fewer than 4 days per week or for missed school.

Can I leave half way through the year?

We are a full-year program, and in joining you are committing to stay with us for the entire school year. We will, however, always take into account extenuating circumstances.

Will there be homework given to kids?

No homework will be assigned, but children may take projects home if they wish.

What ages do you accept?

Our program is for grades K-7. So children who are aged 5 to 12 as of December 31st. As of 2020 all of our registered students are in grade K through 4. We do not offer a preschool program at this time.

What will be the student/teacher ratio?

We have one educator per 7 children, plus one extra full-time teacher and a full-time office admin to fill in as required.

Do you offer French Immersion?

While we are not a French program, most of our educators are French-bilingual, and about a third of our students generally communicate in French.

Does this meet Ministry requirements for grades/curriculum?

Yes. We will operate in compliance with all regular school curriculum requirements for grade/age level. Report Cards will be submitted to the Ministry, and we anticipate no problems with switching back to public school in future, if you wanted. All of our students will be registered with the Island Discovery DL group as they are the link that allows our new program to be Ministry certified.

Are there extra fees on top of the monthly tuition?

Most things are included. There are occasional activities or projects that the children want to undertake that will involve an extra cost, such as field-trip expenses or expensive projects, but these will be made clear to parents in advance of any such expense and participation is optional.

What supplies do I need to provide for my child?

You will need to send your child each day with weather-appropriate clothing and we recommend a change of clothes be left at the farm. Certain projects may require special equipment (ie. If your child wants to participate in equestrian activities, they will need a riding or bike helmet and hard-soled boots with a heel).

Do you offer Special Education?

We are not set up to support any type of Special Education at this time.

What level of parent participation is expected?

We are not a parent-participation program, but will certainly take advantage of any skills or talents you would like to share with us.

What COVID-19 protocols are in place?

Part of the reason we are going to be doing a full-time program rather than a part-time program is we want to create our own bubble, rather than bringing children together in our group that are ALSO attending another school. We are also a very small school, with only 28 children total. Almost all activities will be taking place outside, or in well-ventilated covered areas such as shelters, the deck on the farm, or in our hayloft (which is covered and warm, but not enclosed). We will encourage frequent handwashing and some physical distancing, but the focus will be on small group outdoor activities to prevent the spread of viruses. Masks will not be required except for individual projects or trips that may specifically require them. We have one indoor space at the farm which is used for quiet projects in small groups, and it has a Heat Recovery Ventilator installed that allows a full air-exchange every 15 minutes. You can read more about our policies here.

Is the farm open to the public during school hours?

The public is only allowed to visit us after 3:30pm and on weekends. While the farm will not be specifically closed to other activities and events during school hours, most of our other events and visitors happen on weekends and will not conflict with the school program at all. In addition, we will attempt to schedule occasional weekday events on days where the children are on a field trip.

What about transportation for field trips?

To limit the amount of time spent in close proximity to each other during the pandemic, we will not be using public transportation or school buses. The Farm is ideally located close to many city parks, playgrounds, playing fields, the Fraser River trails, Pacific Spirit Park, Southlands Riding Club, and McCleery Golf Course. Most trips will be within walking distance of the Farm, and any longer field trips will be coordinated with parents.

What if schools are shut down again because of COVID-19?

We will operate in compliance with all Municipal, Provincial and Federal laws & orders. If we are required to shut down we will NOT collect school fees during the time we are shut down. We will still be able to offer, at no charge, individual video-learning with your child's regular teacher.

Can you help us get back into our child’s current school after the pandemic?

Through the Distributed Learning program, we can provide a letter of support, ministry-compliant report cards, and evidence that your child meets the current grade level for their age. But if your desire is to return to another program then you will need to discuss your plans with your current/old program.

Ideally, though, we are looking for people who are a good fit for our type of program and who won’t want to go back to a regular program after the pandemic is over.

How do I register?

As we only have a few spots available, please email us for more information. We will invite you for a visit to see the school in operation, and answer any questions you have.

For more information, please email admin@southlandsfarm.ca