A program that is boosting the academic standings of aboriginal students in Alberta, is being rolled out in Thunder Bay.
Students in Fort McMurray have been taking part in a learning initiative run by the Royal Conservatory of Music.

The program brings First Nations elders and artists into the classroom.

Angela Elster

The Royal Conservatory of Music's Angela Elster founded the program that brings First Nations elders into the classroom. (supplied)

‚Äč"These students become more engaged in school, they're happier to come to school", said Angela Elster, the senior vice-president of research and education with the Royal Conservatory.

"Their attendance improved and, in fact, teacher retention improved because everyone is engaged in deep, meaningful learning."

Elster said students involved in the program have better provincial test scores than their peers. 

'This is what real learning was about'

That didn't surprise Elster.

"We are elevated with music and the arts, our spirits are elevated," she said. " If you look at Indigenous populations across the world, this is what real learning was about."

The initiative began in 1994 as an attempt to bring to life the conservatory's vision "to develop human potential through music and arts."

The Royal Conservatory began working with Lakehead Public Schools in 1999, creating an elders-in-residence program.

Starting in September, Elster said they'll enhance the "robust roster of learning through the arts" in Thunder Bay with an eye to building towards a national program.