Vanessa LeBourdais is the executive producer and creative director of DreamRider Productions, who produces the Planet Protector Academy and hopes that it will provide an outlet for children during this time. PHOTO: PLANETPROTECTORACADEMY.COM

The pandemic has been hard on many families, affecting their home life and mental health. However, one group has found a way to engage children as real-life planet protectors, while also providing a fun outlet to decompress. 

Avalon Sharpe has been struggling with this shift as she tries to limit screen time within the household. 

“We struggled with it in the beginning. We had to shift our whole family dynamics surrounding screen time. Now she has her own tablet. Now she has these apps that we’re not entirely sure [are] about and she’s spending a lot of time reading from these apps because we can’t go to the library. The whole online shift really messed with our foundation,” Sharpe explained. 

Watch: Planet Protector Academy in action

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Video produced by Jazmine Canfield

Not only has the pandemic put a shift in their household dynamics, but Sharpe’s daughter, Broegan Sharpe, was also starting to feel the mental impacts of isolation. Sharpe explained that her daughter had a couple meltdowns because she wished it was last year, or two years ago, because things felt more normal and they could do more activities.

“So even she is trying to find a sense of normalcy.”

The pandemic has put a hold on a lot of activities that Sharpe’s daughter would participate in, so Sharpe and her husband started to look for an online outlet for her daughter. That is when they found out about the Planet Protector Academy. 

The Planet Protector Academy is an online platform that was originally used to educate children in classrooms about climate change and what they can do to save the planet at home. But since the pandemic, they have moved the platform to reach children at home. 

Avalon Sharpe and her daughter Broegan. According to her mother, Broegan has experienced a couple of meltdowns due to the pandemic, but has found a way to cope through using the program as an outlet to relax and have fun. PHOTO: AVALON SHARPE

The at home edition teaches kids through four different live shows: Keep Cool, Zero Heroes, H2Whoa! and Emergency Preparedness Squad. Each show focuses on different types of climate activism and how the kids can fight climate change at home. They encourage kids to turn off lights, recycle more and use different types of transportation when they can. 

Vanessa LeBourdais, the executive producer and creative director of DreamRider Productions, says the program has helped many children throughout the pandemic, making them feel happier and calmer. 

“Right now, I think we can all look at the world. We’re all stressed about what’s going on about climate change, or the pandemic or all these other things, and if we imagine that we’re like seven and we’re growing into this world where you can’t touch anybody, and what that does to children in their hearts, is my biggest concern right now” she said. 

The program found through a survey that they have been successful in helping many children through the pandemic, with 80 per cent saying that they were calmer, and 70 per cent said they were happier from participating in the Planet Protector Academy. 

“If we imagine that we’re seven and we’re growing into this world where you can’t touch anybody, and what that does to children in their hearts, is my biggest concern right now.”

Vanessa LeBourdais

Since Sharpe has enrolled her daughter in the program, she has seen a significant increase in her happiness. 

“She loved it right away and just seeing her open up and excited about something and waiting for it for the next day and participating was really nice,” she explained. 

The Planet Protector Academy has been so successful in the classroom that they have seen an increase in demands from schools. To keep up with these demands, they will be creating a theatre performance intended to be delivered to an assembly.

As a result, they will have to cut down the live action shows. Therefore, the Zero Heroes program will be the main program available to parents and anyone enrolled in the program will also get access to all the modules after if they can’t join live.

The program has been an outlet for more than 30,000 children across Canada, the U.S. and India. The Planet Protector Academy can be accessed for free, through any device at https://planetprotectoracademy.com/