by Stephen Dafoe
École Morinville Public School (EMPS) is looking for someone to help count their chickens after they hatch. The school’s Learning Farm program seeks a Community Liaison passionate about land-based learning and agricultural/outdoor education to help with the popular program.
Started several years ago, the EMPS Learning Farm introduces students to the world of chickens, from egg to hatchling to laying new eggs. The school’s coop has housed as many as 16 laying hens at a time.
“We’re very lucky to have this asset at our school where our kids are able to learn about farm to table,” said parent Michelle Keller, co-chair of the school’s Parent Fundraising Association (PFA). “They help to raise the chicks from eggs. We even have chickens that we put in shows sometimes. They’re involved every step of the way.”
With EMPS teachers establishing the program and putting it into a smooth-running operation, the School Council is currently looking for people who can help keep it so. A recent flyer indicates roles can be as big or small as people want, taking on one to three tasks in the ongoing program. Those tasks include recruiting and scheduling volunteers to look after the coop and the chickens it houses, attending council meetings to report on the program’s activities and needs, or even bringing forward new ideas and initiatives for the Learning Farm.
“Right now, we’re looking for somebody in the community to get involved,” Keller said, noting that volunteer parents move on to other schools as children age out of the school. “We want somebody in the community who is passionate about this project that will be involved for a long time and help keep it going.”
Keller said the volunteer, who need not be a school parent, would attend school council meetings once a month to provide updates on how the Learning Farm is doing and anything the program requires that the PFA might be able to assist with.
“They would help come in and check on the chickens, particularly in the off-season when nobody is in the building,” Keller explained. “Spring break, summer time, winter break. If we have times in the off-season when eggs might be hatching, they might have to take them home with them and put them in the incubators at home.”
During the school season, students take care of all the chores, including cleaning the coop, looking after the chickens and tending to the eggs.
Keller said she grew up on a farm and sees great value in children who do not have that access to learning those skills.
“It helps a lot of kids who don’t normally learn these skills get involved,” Keller said.
EMPS teacher Monique Webb shares the sentiment on the program’s educational value.
“The basis for the program is that kids create connection through valuable and meaningful work,” Webb said. “By having valuable and meaningful work to do that requires empathy and the care of something other than themselves, that creates that sense of connection, purpose and belonging.”
Webb went on to say that students who feel a sense of belonging learn more.
School Council Chair Courtney Derouin also sees great value in the hands-on aspects of the school’s Learning Farm.
“I think education is going through some progressive revolutionary things. It’s really exciting to have that land-based outdoor learning—that big bit of learning that happens outside of a desk. The hands-on experience. The curiosity that they get to have and the immediate gratification of something cool happening with a chicken or another animal right in front of them. It’s critical to their learning and fostering that excitement about education.”
Those interested in assisting with the program can contact EMPS teacher Monique Webb or message the Learning Farm via their Facebook Page at https://www.facebook.com/MPSlearningfarm
Clockwise from left: École Morinville Public School students Lincoln Knobben, Quinn Foy, Jaina St. Pierre, teacher Monique Webb, and Ryan Saini candle an egg to see its status as a future chicken. – Stephen Dafoe