Sacred Heart School/École Sacre Coeur in Estevan celebrated the completion of their and First Nations outdoor classroom, which includes a teepee, during an assembly on October 24.
Students heard presentations from retired librarian Hanna Keating, who has played an instrumental role in the creation of the outdoor classroom. Mike Beaudoin, who spent a lot of time creating the teepee, and local Métis Joanna Blondeau, were other speakers during the assembly.
Keating said the idea for the outdoor classroom started during the 2005 Saskatchewan centennial. Students planted a garden with a wide variety of Saskatchewan plants and shrubs in the school yard to mark Saskatchewan's 100th birthday.
Heavy rains in 2010 sprouted clovers that damaged the garden, but Keating continued to believe in the classroom.
During the summer of 2011, Keating read a story about Beaudoin and the large metal sculptures of band students that he created. She knew that he was the person to create a teepee for a First Nations-themed outdoor classroom.
Keating said it's a wonderful feeling to see the project finished.
"The teepee is made of 90 per cent recycled pipe and materials from companies … that donated metal," said Keating.
Beaudoin carved First Nations images inside the teepee and stained pictures, Keating said. On top of the teepee is a raven's nest, with a raven sitting on top, and a buffalo's skull is at the entrance.
"Students will be able to come out here for stories and legends, they'll likely even come out here for art projects," said Keating. "They can come out here to the garden, and look at all the flowers and plants, and research what they were used for by the First Nations culture."
The garden and the teepee compliment each other very well, Keating said.
Sacred Heart received $2,500 from the Urban Aboriginal Community Initiatives Grant, which was directed towards a First Nations festival they hosted in March, as well as the outdoor classroom.
The restored garden features Saskatchewan native wildflowers, shrubs, bushes, trees and grasses.
"It's set again to look like the Prairies did long ago," said Keating.
Beaudoin said a lot of people put in a lot of hours of work to make the teepee possible. He said he hopes the students enjoy it, have fun with it, and that it creates dialogue on Métis history.
Beaudoin also created a bench that can easily be moved from the school to the teepee when students are learning outside.
Blondeau discussed her Métis heritage and brought artifacts related to Métis life. She explained the significance of a Métis flag, a sash, a blanket and a Red River cart.
Once the speakers were finished, everybody went outside and congregated around the teepee. Father Juanito Vargas from St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church offered a blessing for the teepee and the outdoor classroom.