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Trish Murray-Elliott joins Sturgeon Public board; 7 chickens take roost in new Morinville Public Learning Farm

School notes

Trustee sworn in

Sturgeon Public has a new trustee, and she hopes to hit the ground running at an open house this week.

Sturgeon County resident Trish Murray-Elliott was declared winner by acclamation of the Sturgeon Public School Division Ward 4 (Sturgeon Valley West/St. Albert) byelection April 2. She was set to be sworn in today at 12:45 p.m.

The Sturgeon Public board called the byelection to replace Shane Sherwin after he stepped down.

A part-time bookkeeper, Murray-Elliott lives just northwest of St. Albert and has had two sons graduate from Sturgeon Public schools in the last 29 years. She previously helped run the Villeneuve Soccer Association.

Murray-Elliott said she decided to run for office after seeing an ad in the Gazette, and was impressed by the teamwork and preparation she saw amongst trustees at a recent board meeting.

“I was quite surprised there wasn’t an election,” she said, speculating candidates might have been deterred by the job’s workload.

Murray-Elliott said her schedule was already piling up with meetings and other duties, and that she hoped to meet with parents and teachers Thursday at the Sturgeon Heights open house.

“There is a steep learning curve at first,” she said, adding she is thankful for the board’s support.

Murray-Elliott said she hopes to assist the board however possible and help motivate students and staff to be their best.

In a press release, board chair Terry Jewell said Murray-Elliott’s election brings the board up to full strength for the first time in six months.

“As a board, we have a lot of work ahead of us, and I am excited to have Ms. Elliott contribute to guiding our division through the challenges and opportunities ahead of us.”

Chickens at Morinville Public

There were oohs and awws aplenty last week as Morinville Public Elementary welcomed seven chickens to their new in-school farm.

Morinville Public School students and guests celebrated the grand opening of the new Morinville Public Learning Farm last April 4 with speeches, a ribbon cutting and the Chicken Dance in the school gym.

Observing the festivities from a green bin the back were some of the farm’s occupants: black Silkie chicks (a breed known for its fluffiness and feathered feet), the peeps from which could be heard throughout the day’s festivities.

Teacher Monique Webb said she and teacher Sandra Wood started having students hatch chickens from eggs as part of their science lessons back in 2011 but always had to give the chicks away. They also knew that the school had a rarely used courtyard area that would be ideal for chickens.

“We always joked that it was already built, it’s a chicken coop,” she said, as it was fenced in.

The school entered their chicken coop idea into the North West Redwater Partnership Waste Into Worth contest last year and won the $3,000 grand prize. Now, with the help of volunteers, local businesses and Clark Builders (the group managing construction of the Morinville Leisure Centre), they’ve built a shed-like coop in the courtyard complete with shelves, food tubes and chicken-sized side-doors.

Seven of the coop’s 15 occupants are now on site, Webb said. Students have named them Gumball, Mellie, Fluffy B., Flappy McFlappera, Fussball P., Flappy B., and Flapccino R.

Students will take turns each week caring for the chickens, while teachers will use the birds to teach art, math, science, and other lessons, Webb and Wood said. Students will also get to watch the birds via webcam and through windows overlooking the courtyard. Once the birds start laying eggs this summer, the school will use some of the eggs in its lunch program and sell the rest at $4 a carton to raise funds for the farm’s operation. (The school has a permit from Alberta Agriculture to sell the eggs.)

Ward 5 (Morinville) Sturgeon School trustee Misty Featherley said this in-school farm was the only one of its kind in the region and possibly Canada, and that it would teach students much about environmental stewardship.

“It’s real life learning,” she said, and something other schools could do as well.

Questions on the chickens should go to the school at 780-939-3445.

Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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