Vancouver Sun: Reconciliation is child’s play in North Vancouver with Indigenous-focused playground

Vancouver Sun article:

“When the concrete is poured this week to create the footings of a teepee in a new playground at Ridgeway Elementary School in North Vancouver, the foundation will secure more than just a physical structure.

Brad Baker, principal of the North Vancouver School District Indigenous Education Program, said the Indigenous-focused playground will support the three pathways of Indigenous education in the school district: students, educators and community members.

Most important among them, of course, is the children.

“The entry to learning is play, and for us as Indigenous people, that also means learning from the land,” said Baker. “This is a permanent example of play and learning from the land.”

Arieanna Schweber, 39, mom to two kids at Ridgeway elementary, led a $200,000 community fundraising drive to finance the project. From the beginning, the idea for a new playground was inseparable from the community’s commitment to honour the history and culture of the Skwxwú7mesh and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations.”

Continue reading here…

New Natural Playground Coming to Ridgeway Elementary in North Vancouver

Press Release

New Natural Playground Coming to Ridgeway Elementary in North Vancouver

Community Supported Playground Breaks Ground March 13

North Vancouver, B.C., March 5, 2021 – On March 13, 2021, Ridgeway Parent Advisory Council (PAC) and North Vancouver School District #44 will break ground on a custom natural playground at Ridgeway Elementary. “We are very excited to see these play areas come to life,” notes Arieanna Schweber, who led the project on behalf of Ridgeway PAC, “This project is the result of three years of work, collaboration, fundraising, and the amazing support of our community.”

The idea for new play spaces began in 2018 in response to growth in the student population and community around Ridgeway Elementary. Spread across two zones on the property, the new play spaces offer new opportunities for imaginative open-ended play for the school’s 610 K-7 students. Dean Yeo, Ridgeway Elementary Principal, notes “This project will create excitement for students and staff about outside learning and playing, not only during the times of this pandemic, but for years to come.”

The new playground pays respect to the natural environment, featuring five custom-designed natural log and rope play pieces designed by Projects in Place Society, a full design-to-build non-profit society helping build stronger communities through sustainable design. The play pieces were designed based upon ideas generated from Ridgeway staff, family surveys, student brainstorming events, and environmental impact assessments. The playground has been designed to be inclusive, featuring accessible recycled tire surfacing, supported by a grant from the Tire Stewardship BC (TSBC), as well as inclusive sensory musical flowers. 

“Every child deserves a great place to learn and play,” said City of North Vancouver Mayor Linda Buchanan. “Outdoor spaces such as our park and playgrounds are crucial in supporting the well-being of children. The City is proud to contribute to this new natural play space and appreciates the PAC’s and School Board’s investment in this inclusive and accessible playground.”

Ridgeway PAC raised almost $200,000 towards the project, with additional in-kind donations of design services, labour, equipment and materials raising the value of the project to nearly $400,000. 

The new play spaces are the result of a “by the community, for the community” approach to development. The playground is made possible thanks to the generous in-kind labour and equipment support of Houston Landscapes, Gauthier & Associates Landscape Architects, and Natural Impressions Outdoor Play, as well as materials donated by Veratec, Specimen Trees Wholesale Nurseries Ltd., Emterra, and J K Truck & Crane. 

“At Houston Landscapes, we believe in giving back to the communities in which we live and work,” notes Jeremy Miller of Houston Landscapes, “We have been seeking out a project where our equipment, our connections to suppliers, but most importantly, our skillset could be put to use to help grow our communities and are very excited to work with the North Vancouver School District, Projects in Place, and Ridgeway PAC to bring this project to fruition.”

This project gratefully acknowledges the support of the City of North Vancouver through their Community Grant program and Living City Grant, as well as grants received from the Can.Aid.Ian Fund, held at Vancouver Foundation, and generous partner support from Anthem Properties, Cascadia Green Development, Morrison on the Park by CREO Developments, Wasserman, and Whole Foods Market. Thanks also goes to the many Friends of Ridgeway PAC who participated in fundraisers or who donated generously toward this project

The press kit and photos are available for download at 

Arieanna Schweber
Ridgeway PAC

Lisa Dalla Vecchia
Communications Manager
North Vancouver School District


Playground Update

Through the amazing support of this community, we are looking to schedule the build of 2 new play areas this Spring. This is Phase 1 of our playground development project, with 2-3 additional new areas hopefully introduced in the coming year.

The play areas include:

  • Climbing net play structures (2)
  • Teepee
  • Natural log climbing areas (2)
  • Stepping structure
  • Sensory equipment
  • Rubber fall surfacing to make the area wheelchair friendly (all blue areas, river design)

Barring any unforeseen delays or changes to the design (necessitate by budget or final approvals), we are hoping to firm up our schedule for late May / early June, with the final reveal in September 2020 after all the finishing touches have been added. Design not final.

There are many to thank for helping us get to this point, but this project has been moving very quickly this year. In response to the needs of the specific species of trees on our property, we chose to add rubber tire surfacing to protect the trees from foot traffic. The surfacing also helps us achieve a level of accessibility for this area we did not believe we could budget for.

As you can imagine, as our design as evolved, costs have gone up. But so has support – although we do need more! At this time, I’d like to thank the major support we’ve received to date:

You will start to hear a LOT more updates about the playground as we approach the Spring. There will be many requests, including for volunteers or in-kind support.

Questions? Want to help?

If you have questions or want to contribute to this amazing project, please reach out to

Playground Phase 2

Our overall design includes new classroom and play areas that have been split into a second Phase of the project, including:

  • An outdoor classroom area near our Welcome Pole
  • An improved boulder / bio swale, with new boardwalk bridge and potential play features
  • Accessible spinners and accessible play surfacing that extends from and around the “blue playground”

Our second phase requires a substantial investment, given the ‘off the shelf’ nature of some of the features. As we have increased the scope of Phase 1, adding in play surfacing and more play features, we have had to use a greater portion of the overall playground fund (meant to support Phase 1 and Phase 2). The phasing of the project also contributes to increased costs.

We still need your support. Our current estimate is that we have raised $177,234 of the estimated $250,000+ we could need – though the amazing partnerships we’ve created means our design is actually worth several times more than what we’re paying.

Donate Now (tax receipts available)

We also welcome corporate partnerships, with the opportunity for recognition and activation at our build and media events.

THANK YOU! Together we are making this amazing project happen.

*NEW* Playground Fundraiser

Students are coming home this week with a Playground Fundraising form. Please help support them in getting donations for their new playground.

Our current tally is now $12,000 higher thanks to recent donors, including a special thanks to Lynn Johnston Productions. It’s because of all of our current donors and these fundraisers that we are at nearly $140,000 – so close to reaching our goal of $200,000.  Thank you so much!

How the Fundraiser Works

Similar to our Spring Fair raffle, students are encouraged to reach out to friends, family, or the community for donations (cash or cheque) to help us build our new playground – which benefits not only our students, but hopefully the whole community! The form will help you keep track of donations and provide us with information for tax receipts.


Students are encouraged to set their own fundraising goal to help us fundraise that remaining $60,000. Students who fundraise more than $100 and who return their form and donations before December 6, 2019 will have the opportunity to win prizes, which include (but not limited to):

  • 2 Canucks tickets
  • A Family set of tickets (2 adult, 2 child) to Cineplex
Students should be accompanied by an adult at all times if reaching out to the community. Consider going further afield to avoid overlap with the many students who live around Ridgeway.
The CONTEST is open until DECEMBER 6th.

Online donations can be made here.

Playground Fundraiser at Whole Foods April 27

In addition to our existing bag donation program with Whole Foods (were 10 cents from every reusable bag you take to the North Van store is donated to us until the end of June), Whole Foods will be celebrating our project as part of their 1 year anniversary!

Saturday April 27
Whole Foods North Vancouver 1 Year Anniversary Celebration
10am to 12pm

$5 Waffle Breakfast – Proceeds to *Ridgeway’s Playground*

In addition to enjoying the waffles (yum!), Ridgeway student & parent volunteers are needed to help tell everyone coming to Whole Foods about our great project, to help serve waffles, and to hand out free reusable bags. You can sign up to volunteer here (bonus if you wear Ridgeway Ravens gear!).

We are excited to be making leaps and strides in this project, but we still have a long way to go. Be sure to spread the campaign at work, with your friends & family – or set your own fundraising goal!

Playground Fundraiser Now Open

Introducing the new Ridgeway outdoor playspaces! We invite you to join us for a school-wide information session on the plans for the new outdoor playspaces!

History of the Project

In early 2018, the Ridgeway PAC began exploring options to redesign our outdoor spaces to add new areas of play. We surveyed parents for priorities, talked with landscapers, and signed an agreement with non-profit Projects in Place Society to help us design & execute the build. With their in-kind support, we could see a $1 million playspace enhancement in 5 areas of our school – for under $200,000.

We have received City of North Vancouver grants, support from Whole Foods, and have as a PAC voted to spend a portion of our uncommitted project fund, leaving us more than 25% funded. Our goal is to fully fund, get approval for, and build this project by Fall 2019.

Information Night April 4 at Ridgeway

We would like to walk you through the vision of this project and the designs that have been developed and refined with input from the School District. Although the designs are not final until School District approval, we want to share with you the progress so far!

The design includes:

  • Natural play spaces that challenge and/or inspire a wide range of ages
  • Open-ended play structures including logs, boulders, netting and free-standing teepees
  • An art installation on our emergency bin
  • Native landscaping and an edible garden
  • Accessible play equipment

Help Make it Possible

We want to give every child and family at Ridgeway a chance to say they helped make this ambitious project possible. Often these projects are done in stages, but due to our unique relationship with Projects in Place, we can transform our school over the course of two weekends – if we can come up with the funds.

We are actively soliciting funding in the form of:

  • Corporate sponsorship
  • Individual donations
  • Grants

Please consider helping make this project possible. We are a registered charity – tax receipts are available.

You can donate online here or write a cheque to “Ridgeway Elementary PAC.”