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Seven Stones Community School

For many, the word ‘education’ stirs fond memories of childhood friends, field trips and goofing off in school hallways but, for many others, it means painful memories of isolation, oppression and abuse.

Today Indigenous communities are still experiencing the devastating effects of residential schools. Seven Stones Community School, located in Regina’s North Central neighborhood, is working to redefine education for its students and their families.

Ninety-five per cent of students who attend Seven Stones are self-declared as Indigenous, which includes First Nations, Métis and Inuit.

“With that comes the understanding that residential school has impacted these kids … that there are historical traumas that are definitely still playing themselves out and school wariness that’s still playing itself out from the adults in the community that have not had good schooling experiences,” said principal Jay Fladager.

Fladager said Seven Stones was designed to be a voice for the community, “but also a new hope for what education could provide.” One of the school’s main goals is to listen to community members and let their voices inform the programs and experiences Seven Stones offers the students.

In addition to the regular school curriculum, Seven Stones has an Elder-in-residence program, Métis cultural exchange program and a cultural arts program that incorporates Cree, Michif and Indigenous studies. As well, students can learn fiddling, jigging, drumming and other traditional Indigenous practices.

Instead of traditional classrooms, the school has a variety of learning spaces that range in size and style. Large windows flood the school with natural light, shared tables instead of desks fill the learning spaces, and a large, living room-like shared space takes up a big portion of the first floor, which creates a welcoming and comfortable place for students.

Fladager said an emphasis is placed on hands-on, inquiry-based learning.

“We’re not really doing them a service, preparing them for real world things, if we have them sitting in a desk completing textbook assignments … that really aren’t very engaging or passionate or reflective of who they are or who they are going to be in the future,” said Fladager.

The school also organizes events to honour the parents. The goal is to empower the community and debunk the stereotype that North Central is impoverished, with little to offer.

  • Inspiration at Seven Stones
    Inspiration at Seven Stones

    Photo by Jennifer Ackerman

  • Jolene Siemens, Learning Resource Teacher at Seven Stones
    Jolene Siemens, Learning Resource Teacher at Seven Stones

    Photo by Jennifer Ackerman

  • Students boots at Seven Stones
    Students boots at Seven Stones

    Photo by Jennifer Ackerman

  • Seven Stones Student
    Seven Stones Student

    Photo by Jennifer Ackerman

  • Seven Stones Wall Plaque
    Seven Stones Wall Plaque

    Photo by Jennifer Ackerman

  • Front Entrance of Seven Stones
    Front Entrance of Seven Stones

    Photo by Jennifer Ackerman

  • Outside of Seven Stones
    Outside of Seven Stones

    Photo by Jennifer Ackerman

Fladager said the school doesn’t “define the population here as vulnerable. It defines the fact that we are a community with assets and these kids and families come with many assets that we need to help support and find the passions behind.”

School staff encourage families to get involved with the school as much as possible. Fladager said parents drop in daily to check in, ask for advice and get support.

Fladager said the community-based approach has increased attendance, community engagement, literacy and numeracy rates, and the overall happiness of the students.

Jolene Siemens is a learning resource teacher at Seven Stones. She works with students who have different needs, or need to set different goals other than report cards to engage in learning. She enjoys the collaborative approach to teaching and believes schools play a significant role in reconciliation.

“I think really any school has a huge role in reconciliation because we present a fear, schools present a fear to people who have been through residential school, so to acknowledge that fear and combat it by bringing them in, in positive ways is a big part of what school should be,” said Siemens.