A neat class room with colorful decoration

New First Nation School Promotes Cultural Awareness, Health and Wellness

The Elsipogtog First Nation’s new community school blends nature, culture and learning in an inclusive state-of-the-art facility. Extending its capacity and ancillary services, students now have access to a new on-reserve dentistry, physiotherapy and fitness facilities.


Elsipogtog First Nation


Elsipogtog First Nation, New Brunswick

Project Scale

$26.8 Million

Balancing Education, Health and Wellness

Elsipogtog First Nation is a Mi’kmaq community located approximately 91 kilometres northwest of Moncton, New Brunswick. With most of its residents living on the reserve, the community’s facilities are well used.

The First Nation’s K-8 school, however, was deteriorating and could no longer support the growing student population, requiring the school to use an increasing number of outdoor portables. With limited space, the school was unable to provide some of the health and fitness services it had envisioned offering its students.

In July 2018, the Elsipogtog First Nation procured a team that could help bring their vision for a new K-8 school to life. It then secured a location for the new school, which included a forested area for outdoor education and was large enough to accommodate a large multipurpose room, dental clinic, physiotherapy room, fitness room, outdoor fire pit and indoor and outdoor walking tracks. The Nation also incorporated cultural elements throughout the facility including colours and wayfinding that reflect those in the medicine wheel, as well as animal totems representing each wing of the school. Gardens will also be added to the grounds in the Spring and used for teaching. The larger school grounds and additional building space were essential to ensure students and community members had an affordable and accessible way to prioritize their health and fitness.

Incorporating Environmental Elements

The Elsipogtog First Nation first engaged our project management team to develop a feasibility study that ultimately led to the selection of the community’s preferred site. We continued to assist with the project’s delivery through to closeout.

Once the community secured the new school location, our project manager met with the First Nation’s community members, including students, elders, teachers, and the school district’s Director and Assistant Director of Education, to review each stakeholder’s vision for the facility’s design, operation and services. Our team then prepared a project plan, procurement documents and a schedule to initiate the project. One of the initial challenges the team faced was that the chosen site included forested wetland. This required our project managers to coordinate with Environment Canada to ensure that any wetland impacted by construction was reinstated elsewhere. To lessen the impact of the school’s footprint, the project team made the decision to adjust the layout and incorporate more of the natural forest into the school’s overall landscape.

It was also important to stakeholders that the school visually reflect their culture. The design-builder hosted a contest for local artists in the community to create a mural design to be featured in the school. Three artists were selected, and their works are now on display as an important representation of inclusivity, local culture and community.

During the design phase, the Elsipogtog First Nation and its stakeholders decided to add a mezzanine style walking track along the perimeter of the gymnasium as well as an outdoor walking track on the new school grounds. Both walking tracks are intended to encourage physical activity and socialization amongst reserve residents and were funded by the community. Our team altered the schedule to accommodate this change and ensure that the project could still be complete in time for the 2021 school year.

A Culturally-Rich Space

The new community school was operationally complete on budget and in time for its opening in September 2021. The school board decided to delay classes by one week to accommodate the installation and set up of all furniture, fixtures and equipment, allowing faculty to settle into the new space, set up their classrooms and better prepare for students.

Thanks to the dedication and determination of the Elsipogtog community and the entire project team, students, residents and faculty now have a culturally rich and inspirational space to learn, grow, and embrace nature and healthy living.

Basketball court from upper view with daylight
Food court and the stair to go up
A neat class room with colorful decoration
View of Elsipogtog Entrance
Elsipogotg First Nation Community School