Sapphire Children's Centre

Location: West Pender
Partners: VSOCC - Vancouver Society of Children's Centres
Sponsors: Ausenco, CBR Products, Cedar Rim Nursery, Dick's Lumber, Eco-Soil, Fresh Slice Pizza, Lykki.com, Maxwell Floors, Piroche Plants, Streethawks Delivery, Urban Fare, Waves Coffee House
Completion: March 2014

In mid-2013, Vancouver Society of Children’s Centres (VSOCC) and Projects in Place Society (PIPS) came together to form a multi-year, multi-project "Partnership for a Greener Future”. This initiative aims to improve children's outdoor play spaces in over a dozen VSOCC childcare centres.

The first playground we looked at was the Sapphire Children's Centre in downtown Vancouver. The outdoor design needed an update to the landscape plan, and due to large overhangs, some areas had little to no plant growth while other planters had become trampled and compacted over time.

This is where PIPS came in. The aim of this project was not only to address these existing challenges, but to also incorporate concepts of sustainability, food security and environmental conservation with creative play and story-telling.

At the Sapphire Children’s Centre, PIPS worked with VSOCC to design many creative and sustainable features including art posts, planters, a composting station, a berm and more. PIPS transformed the underutilized planters with multi-coloured decking - creating beautiful performance space and a floating deck. Native plants were used throughout, with some planters being used as dedicated vegetable garden space. The children can now plant veggies at their new planting table, grow food that will be used for their daily snacks, learn about composting food waste, and learn about the environment and how their actions can impact the world around them.

Volunteers provided tremendous support on this project, coming together for two days of roll-up the sleeves work. The pre-build day saw more than 60 volunteers come out to help cut and paint lumber as well as prepare areas for landscaping. The build event was filled with lots of rain, but also more than 60 pairs of helping hands. Volunteers contributed over 700 hours to paint, assemble and plant an enormous amount. And the sponsors contributed much needed materials, plants, equipment, food and refreshments in support of our project. Over the two weekends, there was a fantastic amount of good cheer, enthusiasm, and generosity of time and spirit that was impressive to see. Our amazing volunteers and generous supporters helped us to overcome a lack of funds, capacity and manpower through their tireless efforts.

Photography by Brett Hitchins.

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"What a great way for us to make improvements! It’s collaborative, it involves the community, and it creates an opportunity for parents to have a hand in building the playground that their children are going to use."

Kim Steger, Board Member - VSOCC