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Leah Simba, 6, working on a community mapping project with her teacher and principal Doyle Manuel. (Kirsten Murphy/CBC) A tiny school in the Northwest Territories has big plans for the school year.

Kakisa Lake School — in the Dehcho’s Kakisa, N.W.T., with a population of about 60 — is a compact, brown polygon with bright blue doors. Large windows grace each of its seven sides.

It is known as a one-room school, although there is a principal’s office and two small bathrooms. The rest of the space is open concept. Kakisa Lake School blends in with the log cabins and small homes that line the community’s half-dozen gravel roads. (Kirsten Murphy/CBC) Teacher and principal Doyle Manuel wants his four students exposed to larger schools — ones with lockers, libraries and hallways.

"Often they have just been in a room with a couple of students, so a class with 20 to 25 can be a shock," Manuel said.

Mr. M, as he’s known, plans to take his students to visit schools in Hay River and Fort Providence, both communities located about an hour away from Kakisa.

The field trips will hopefully ease the students into larger classroom settings and help them eventually transition to high school in Fort Simpson for Grades 10 to 12, said Manuel. Kakisa Lake School principal and teacher Doyle Manuel with 3 of the school’s 4 students. From left to right, Leah Simba, Payton Simba and Cameron Stuart Leishman. (Kirsten Murphy/CBC) Class size varies

Last year, Manuel had nine students in nine different grades.

"Which means I was was doing nine different lesson plans, and that can be a challenge but we make it work," he said. ‘Often they have just been in a room with a couple of students, so a class with 20 to 25 can be a shock,’ says Manuel. (Kirsten Murphy/CBC) This is Manuel’s nineteenth year teaching in the North and his second year in Kakisa. There is one other staff member — a special needs and Dene Zhatie language teacher. His wife often volunteers as a classroom assistant.

Back in the classroom, Leah Simba, 6, lists her goals for the school year.

"I want to learn to tie my shoes, play and get big so I can be a teacher," she said. Doyle Manuel has taught in Old Crow, Kimmirut, Kugaaruk and Sambaa K’e. This is his nineteenth year teaching in the North and his second year in Kakisa. (Kirsten Murphy/CBC) The school was built in 1999 and replaced a trailer that had served as a classroom for almost a decade.

Prior to 1990, Chief Lloyd Chicot says students went to Fort Smith, Fort Simpson and Hay River. He said having a community school strengthens cultural bonds between generations. Limited space means the bathroom walls second as storage closets for books and learning resources. (Kirsten Murphy/CBC) "We do community hunts four times a year. They go out with their parents and elders and develop their land skills," Chicot said.

Outdoor activities also include setting snares, snowshoeing and ice fishing.

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