Photo courtesy Twitter, Rick Huijbregts.

Students at Black Lake’s Father Porte Memorial Dene School will have a new and unique way to pursue their education.

The school will now officially be Saskatchewan’s first to welcome the Connected North Virtual Education Program for Indigenous Communities.

Connected North aims to deliver immersive and interactive virtual education for remote and isolated communities.

The program was brought to Black Lake through a partnership between Cisco and Sasktel who announced the official launch on Thursday.

Originally beginning in Iqaluit in 2013 with a single school, the Connected North program has now grown to 15 schools nationwide.

“It is a priority in our community to ensure the children of Black Lake receive a well-rounded education,” says Black Lake Denesuline First Nation Chief Rick Robillard. “Connected North is a powerful way to help us achieve this goal, by introducing students and teachers to a new world of opportunity.”

Steve Thatcher principal of the Father Porte School says they have been trying a test run of the program since the beginning of the school year.

Thatcher says the program runs really smooth.

He says recently their Kindergarten class was able to get an amazing lesson in puppetry.

“They set up a puppetry class with the Centre for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta, Georgia, so it is very interactive.”

Thatcher highly recommended the program to any other remote northern schools.

“Travel is limited for the children, so a program like this provides a unique opportunity for students to be exposed to new people places and ideas, and they can also share their culture with others to build understanding.”

The official launch at Black Lake featured a live virtual visit to the Royal Tyrell Museum in Drumheller followed by an interactive literary exploration of West Point Grey Academy in Vancouver.

The launch was also made possible through the support of the Prince Albert Grand Council, Black Lake Denesuline First Nation, Cameco, Areva Resources, Athabasca Basin Development and West Wind Aviation.

There are about 430 students at the northern school.