A grade four project at Exshaw school is demonstrating just how transformational the Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls to actions for education can be.

The Heroes Project, a collaboration with the University of Calgary’s Galileo Educational Network, brought together the community’s elders and knowledge keepers to piece together each student’s past.

Elder Sykes Powderface says the children were instantly engaged.

“Their eyes lit up. All of a sudden they're learning about their history,” he said.

“This is who we were before, now I have to learn more about who I am. And it's about finding their identity.”

As part of the project, each student selected a hero from their family tree, many of whom were previously unknown to them. Those chosen included a well-respected shaman and some of the original signatories of Treaty 7.

"When they got to learn about Indigenous heroes from their own family, you could just see it in them, they sat up a little straighter, and looked directly at the elders instead of staring at the floor,” said teacher Kayla Dallyn.

“Their whole demeanor changed."

The process was also transformational for the elders, allowing a return to the traditional Stoney Nakoda sharing of oral history, filling in some of the gaps created by a culture devastated by Canada’s residential school system.

The next step for the project was working with renowned Canadian artist Christine Wignall to shape and paint busts of the children’s heroes, as well as recording an audio story of what they had learned.

The works are on now display at Artsplace Gallery in Canmore and the installation will stay up over the Canada Day long weekend.