DreamRider Productions

we serve these populations

  • children and youth

we need help with:

  • arts
  • education
  • music
  • Environmental Sustainability

Right now, at this writing, wild fires are burning in California and the Pacific Northwest, the smoke reaching all the way up to Vancouver, BC. The arctic ice is melting faster than scientists predicted. Sea levels are rising. Every day we hear terrible news in the media about ever-worsening environmental issues. Last year, Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old activist from Sweden, led an international movement of kids and adults standing up for the Earth, advocating for immediate, concrete action on climate change. If just one inspired, committed teenager can have that kind of impact, imagine a whole world full of kids like her.

At DreamRider, we have found a magic formula to make that happen. Our programs reliably transform ordinary kids of all stripes into changemakers. The heart of what we do is to ignite joy and strength in kids, something that is needed now more than ever. Our innovative methodology works in many contexts to help kids cope with massive world events and help them feel happy, connected, and empowered.

Tesicca  Truong experienced DreamRider’s programming at age 6; in high school she organized an anti-bottled-water campaign that spread across Vancouver. Now in her late twenties, she has launched two non-profits and been recognized with the Mayor’s Environmental Award. Tesicca says it all started with DreamRider. “DreamRider’s work is truly transformative,” she says. “I remember being deeply touched. I felt a personal responsibility and connection to our water. It laid the foundation for the values that I embody in my own work.”

Our goal is to reproduce the magic effect that our school show had on Tesicca, for as many kids and families as possible, across Canada and beyond. We envision a world full of young citizens who are committed environmental protectors; who understand that we are interconnected with the earth, and who act throughout their lives to take care of it.

As a result of COVID-19, many enviro-ed organizations are scrambling to translate in-person work to digital formats, and to navigate the unpredictability of whether schools will be open, closed, or taking a hybrid approach. At DreamRider, we are uniquely prepared to meet these challenges; we have spent the past 10+ years figuring out how to drive effective, lasting and measurable behaviour change through digital means (developing our programs through action research with municipalities, teachers, students, families & subject experts). Our Planet Protector Academy (PPA) suite was designed from the ground-up to be digitally delivered and to inspire offline learning, creativity and action; it has already proven to be highly effective at educating kids and their families in over 450 cities across Canada. Whether it is delivered in the classroom or directly to kids at home, the PPA helps kids make the social, emotional, cultural and behavioural shifts needed for a just, sustainable, thriving future.

Pre-pandemic, DreamRider’s work was focused around two core programs: (1) The Planet Protector Academy (PPA), our suite of digital classroom programs, delivered to elementary students in 350 cities across Canada, in the US and India; and (2) Touring theatre shows, which we delivered to schools in our home province of BC.

In 2018-19, PPA kids across Canada went on 22,000 missions to change their families’ and communities’ behaviours on waste, water, energy and emergency preparedness. Our touring shows reached 35,000+ kids throughout the Greater Vancouver area. Thanks to partnerships with municipal governments and philanthropic funders, DreamRider was able to offer all of these programs at no cost to participating schools or families.

Each program in the PPA suite focuses on a specific environmental issue: waste, energy, emergency preparedness, and – most recently – water.  Over 80% of children who participate in our PPA programs take the lessons they learn home to their families, thanks to the fun “superheroes on a mission” format of the PPA. And 50-70% of these kids actually succeed in changing behaviours at home. One survey has shown that, one full year later, 87% of families were still doing environmental “missions” kick-started by their children.

When schools shut down during the COVID-19 crisis in spring 2020, we were able to draw from our years of experience with online/offline social change engagement techniques; we shifted within days to providing our programming directly to kids at home through a digital live webcast (the Planet Protector Academy: HOME Edition). Some results:

  • 46% of families said the program helped them cope with COVID
  • 50-70% of children were successful in each mission to change their families
  • 80% of children reported feeling happier and calmer
  • 100% of families recommend it

Other recent accomplishments include:

  • The Indigenous video series Messages from Mother Earth (part of our PPA programs on water, waste, and climate), made with and by Indigenous partners.
  • Executive Director Vanessa LeBourdais was named an Ashoka Fellow, joining a prestigious and highly-vetted network of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs
  • Vanessa was also awarded full scholarships to a Vancouver World Trade Centre Accelerator and an Accenture-Carleton University Accelerator
  • Our Board of Directors has developed a cutting-edge governance model based on presence and emergence. Read about it here.

By engaging the hearts, minds, bodies and spirits of the kids who participate in our programs, we teach and empower them to become leaders of change in their families and communities, throughout their entire lives.

We developed the Planet Protector Academy because we wanted to scale the impact of the work we were doing, far beyond the scope of our live touring shows. We spent several years consulting with environmental experts, impact measurement specialists, municipal governments, technology and social change advisors, teachers, kids and parents. We experimented and tested our ideas in Vancouver area classrooms, looking for a new way to use digital media to create the same full-bodied, lasting engagement as DreamRider’s theatre shows – but scalable, without actors needing to be physically present.  Result: the Planet Protector Academy, a series of classroom programs that are hosted on a robust purpose-built web platform (accessible to any teacher anywhere, as long as they have a computer with an internet connection), and which leverage the transformative power of music, comedy, theatre and visual art to drive social change. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, we have adapted a HOME Edition of the PPA suite that can be delivered directly to kids at home via live webcasts hosted by DreamRider actors.

There are four programs in the PPA suite, each focused on a specific environmental issue: KEEP COOL! (climate change and energy conservation), ZERO HEROES (waste reduction), EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS SQUAD, and H2WHOA! (water conservation and management). All four programs share the same proven, effective process:

  • Elementary school teachers sign up for a given PPA program online, and deliver it in their classroom via a computer and projector (no other prep or materials required). If the situation requires it, teachers can register their class for the HOME Edition instead, and students participate from home.
  • In six modules (each about an hour long), DreamRider actors Sara Holt and Ian Gschwind appear as beloved superheroine Esmeralda Planet Protector and her goofy sidekick Goober. They appear to “Skype” into the classroom, in search of Apprentice Planet Protectors to help them save the world! Prompted by the actors on screen, kids sing and dance along, play games and do arts activities offline together as they learn about environmental issues, our interconnectedness with the earth and nature’s place in our lives. They participate as co-creators of a profoundly compelling and inspiring experience that won’t end when the classroom program does, because they’ll be inspired to engage their families as well, through take-home “missions” that change environmental habits.

At DreamRider, we’ve spent the past 2+ decades learning, developing and refining our ability to create transformative experiences for kids. Our programs were designed in classrooms in an action-research approach: we developed the program with diverse kids, teachers, and parents, integrating their feedback at each step. Now we have robust feedback loops, measurements and surveys from all three groups which we integrate on an ongoing basis. Our ground-breaking methodology, which combines comedy, musical theatre, community public ritual (influenced by Michael Meade’s seminal work), and transformational learning, has been informed by all this learning on how kids learn best, and on how story, arts-based activities & gamification can drive change making. (Read a detailed description of our praxis here.)

The Planet Protector Academy is eminently scalable, thanks to the power of internet technology. PPA programs are ready to be delivered to as many classrooms as we can fund (or, if schools close again, as many families as we can reach at home), all across Canada! Right now, on top of the thousands of elementary school classrooms we already reach, we have hundreds more teachers who want to bring the PPA to their students – thousands of young planet protectors waiting to be trained. All we need is you.

Each program costs $650 per classroom. That breaks down to roughly $22 per mission undertaken to change a family. Please help us inspire kids for a lifetime of environmental protection! Your contribution will have a guaranteed impact. After experiencing the PPA, 73% of kids say they feel like real-life Planet Protectors, and act accordingly.

We are ready to inspire millions of kids to take care of the Planet. All we need is people like you!

Are you a Calgary Foundation Fundholder?

Contact Info

Vanessa LeBourdais

Executive Director & Creative Lead



More Info

Charity Number: #85480128RR0001

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