“We want to replace Google Search as the first place teachers go to find trusted resources for their classroom,” says Melissa Welsh. “The topics we’re discussing in our programs are happening right now. It’s not a YouTube video produced two years ago, or a textbook that was printed 5 years ago. It’s current information to help teachers spark discussion in the classroom.”
Pursuing their very own “Nature Netflix”, Nelson BC’s Live It Earth is turning scientists into storytellers and content creators, building online curriculum and resources for Kindergarten to Grade 7 students. They are developing the Live It Earth platform to improve the nature literacy of students and teachers by creating resources that allows them to meaningfully engage with every aspect of the world we share—environmentally and culturally. Live It Earth’s content is elevated by its dedicated inclusion of indigenous perspectives, vetted experts, as well as accessibility in both French and English languages.
Recognizing the strain that teachers were experiencing, especially during the pandemic, Live It Earth was determined to reduce the time it took teachers to build lesson plans. “Teachers are a group of heavily overworked and stressed-out individuals. The amount of prep time it takes to find relevant resources which are safe for the classroom is something that needed to be addressed,” explains CEO and Co-Founder Melissa Welsh. “There are a few problems we’re trying to solve through our platform and saving teachers time is one we feel really passionate about.”
Being able to produce these learning resources wasn’t always such a quick process, though. Originally, it took the team 2-4 months to create programs by streaming on location. Once COVID hit and students were no longer able to return to the classroom, Live It Earth needed to find a solution to continue providing valuable content. “We only had 7 days to figure out what we were going to do, otherwise we would lose our contracts,” recalls CVO and Co-Founder Mike Irvine. “We went from producing a program every few months to producing a program every week for nearly three months.”
It was a risky move that we hoped would pay off.
Since its inception, Live It Earth has been more concerned with developing beneficial educational resources than hitting milestones found in typical tech companies. Demonstrating that commitment, all of the content they produce includes indigenous perspectives and is available in both English and French. “It was not a profitable decision but we knew that relevant French resources were sorely needed in BC,” explains Mike. “It was a risky move that we hoped would eventually pay off.”
After 3 years of following that risk, Live It Earth signed an agreement with Focused Education that has enabled them to bring their content to every single school in British Columbia. Melissa says that their library of bilingual and Indigenous-minded programs contributed heavily to the success of this deal. But, while the agreement opens a lot of doors for Live It Earth, the team is making sure to proceed with caution. “The thing with growth is that it means you have more to lose,” says Melissa. “That’s why we’ve committed to growing slowly—we don’t want to push as fast as we can in every direction.”
“We have the opportunity to reach 331,000 students and we want to respect that,” adds Mike. “We need to make sure that we’re doing deep reviews of the resources and content we’re creating, that our story partners are abiding by our standards, and that we’re including multiple perspectives when we handle controversial topics and create opportunities for equitable conversations.”
In pursuit of that goal, Live It Earth is partnering with Leona Prince, a member of the Lake Babine Nation and liaison for 14 First Nations communities, to share their stories using augmented reality (AR). As a part of that project, Mike is planning to collaborate with the schools and provide resources that would allow students to make their own AR stories.
“We’re also releasing an Arctic Series soon that incorporates different countries, indigenous youth from those countries, collaborations between researchers and students, and cross-cultural exchanges,” Mike continues. “Both of these projects have involved a lot of trust building over several years. We can’t wait for them to come out!“
If you’re all by yourself
and you don’t have mentors,
you don’t know that it’s normal
to have challenging times.
Larry Smith and Robin Jones, Executives-in-Residence at Accelerate Okanagan have been working with Live It Earth’s leadership team through the RevUP program, developing their skillsets as they continue to grow and move further into the education industry. “They have a very unique product that enriches the education of youth around the natural world,” says Larry. “It’s been interesting to see Melissa and Mike build their sales and leadership skills through RevUP’s coaching in order to bring in some important deals and solidify their company.”
Leadership Lessons with Larry Smith
Read about the unique skills Larry brings as an Executive-in-Residence and what lessons he’s learned along his journey.
“We went through a painful period when we realized our sales cycles were going to be much longer than expected and, for the first time, we weren’t hitting our goals,” explains Melissa. “Larry and Robin were able to facilitate some difficult conversations that we needed to have. We grew up significantly during that time because of their mentorship and support. Our company will be forever stronger for it.”
“Being an entrepreneur, you always need to wrestle with your ego, and sometimes you need someone to point that out to you,” adds Melissa. “If you’re all by yourself and you don’t have mentors, you don’t know that it’s normal to have challenging times. It was important to have Larry and Robin normalize that painful period and help cement these important lessons for us.”
As Live It Earth continues to introduce impactful content to classrooms across BC and expand into Ontario’s school system, they are challenging themselves to further improve the team’s efficiency. “We’re not looking to be more profitable, we just want to see if we can create a 32-hour work week so that we can all enjoy more time away from our desks,” explains Melissa. “We want to build a company with the discipline that enables us to sell it and with a culture healthy enough to keep us here for another 25 years.”
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