Sturgeon Refinery

From Beverage Can to Chicken Coop: Waste into Worth Project Update

Refinery Waste into Worth challenge hatches idea for flock of laying hens at local school

April 8, 2019


Watchful students ensure the chicks are well tended to in their new coop. Photo credit: Morinville Public School

It began as a recycling program at the Sturgeon Refinery and spiraled into a unique learning experience for 900 students at Morinville Public School. A newly built coop complete with a specially designed self feeder system and nesting boxes for future egg laying is nestled in a breezeway on school property. Each of the hens already has a name – thanks to a contest among the grade 3s – and a personality.

“This one likes to sit on my desk during class and watch me work. This one loves to cuddle into your coat. This one likes to be flipped over and held like she’s laying on her back, and will even play dead sometimes,” explains one young student about her flock, clearly the self-proclaimed tour guide of the roost.

The school won the $3,000 grand prize in a Waste into Worth contest last fall by North West Redwater Partnership (NWR). Community groups were challenged to figure out how they can turn waste into something of value. The contest was conceived in part to celebrate over half a million dollars of community investment by NWR generated solely from recycling refunds at the refinery, but also to hatch new ideas to make the community greener and cleaner.

And hatch they did. The school used the $3,000 award to kick off the coop project, now called the Learning Farm. It has since received donations and support from businesses in the community, a bylaw amendment from town council, special permission from the Minister of Agriculture, and of course the extraordinary energy and enthusiasm from the students and staff at the school.

The coop quickly evolved from a ‘funny idea’ to the best kind of ROI that community investment can buy – happy students eager and proud of their new ‘teachers’. These hens are the subject of math class profit calculations, food chain life cycle studies, animal husbandry lessons, and even portrait photography practice. Lunch scrap waste will be collected and fed to the chickens, and the resulting egg production will be sold by the dozen to generate funding for the coop, or consumed in the school lunch program. That’s a whole lotta worth generated by a little bit of lunch scrap waste.

Vice Principal Dan Requa, Grade 1 teacher Monique Webb, and NWR’s Vanessa Goodman at the Morinville Public School official launch of the Learning Farm on April 4, 2019. Photo credit: Grant Cree, Photojournalist.

The inaugural dozen eggs is expected this August when the hens reach laying age. Maybe a farm style auction is in order by the self proclaimed tour guide turned auctioneer.

“Starting bid….four dollar, I’m bid four dollar bidder, now four, now four….do I hear four? These are free range eggs, folks. Will ya give me four? Four dollar bidder, now five, now five….”