Partner Series: Education and Outreach Partners

New Myrnam School teachers and students receiving the Energy Efficicency Champion Award at the Emeralds in 2019.

New Myrnam School

Written by Michelle A. Gordy


You don’t have to be a pirate to find this treasure. Tucked away in the small Village of Myrnam, in rural Alberta, New Myrnam School (NMS) is an absolute gem. You might describe them as an Emerald, as they really shine when it comes to “thinking green”. In fact, in 2019, they received the distinguished Energy Efficiency Champion Award by the Alberta Emerald Foundation for their “Eco-classroom”.

NMS is a small, K-12 school with about 115 students, but they also operate Myrnam Outreach and Homeschool Centre, with an additional 60 students, and staff teaching in both sister schools. 

Their philosophy, as Principal, Adrienne Owen puts it is “We really believe in a hands-on approach. We believe that learning needs to be authentic and meaningful to the students and that it should equip them for skills in the real world that they are going to encounter later in life.” Operating on this philosophy, NMS has adopted a project-based approach to learning; “We try to build in as many hands-on learning opportunities as possible to appeal to the potential career pathways and the interests and strengths of our students.”

As recipients, five years in a row, for the Inside Education A+ for Energy Grant, they have been able to implement ambitious, school-wide projects, such as the building of a commercial-scale, hydroponic growing system that helps provide fresh produce to local restaurants and businesses at a reduced cost. The goal of this project was to reduce their carbon footprint with community collaboration.

At NMS, students have a strong voice when it comes to guiding their own learning. Several students have developed their own projects for reducing their carbon footprint and have even applied for their own funding (a very valuable skill). Students also learn how to build a pilot project and what it takes to market that for larger distribution. For instance, several high school students are currently building a chicken coop for their school as a demonstration project for raising chickens locally, with the goal of developing a flat-pack, coop kit, complete with building instructions that people can buy in the future. Through this they are learning about small-scale, self-sustaining farming practices, localized food production, and reducing environmental impact.

Principal Adrienne Owen and community partner, Colleen Mackenzie from CJ's Cafe in Myrnam stand behind the student-built hydroponic system that is growing lettuce for sale to their restaurant.

"We believe that learning needs to be authentic and meaningful to the students and that it should equip them for skills in the real world that they are going to encounter later in life.”

Jaeanna Saskiw, Sam O’Reilly and Kalla Morritt put their backyard chicken coop together with shop teacher and Assistant Principal Robert Tymofichuk.
Two Grade 9 students - Noah Jacula and Becky Pashulka, working on the finishing touches on the solar powered vehicles in the Village of Myrnam’s CTEC building shop.
Students are exploring the potential of renewable energy as vehicle power to help shuttle supplies back and forth between sites on our school property.

Knowing that working together is a key to success, NMS has built strong partnerships within their local community. In fact, their partnership with the Village of Myrnam has led to the development of several community-based projects and allowed space for their students to work within the Career Training Education Centre (CTEC). Other partnerships have recently developed with their local, Two Hills Alternative Land Use Services (ALUS) program to restore a gravel pit into a community garden, and now the VRWA, in helping with our Education and Outreach goals.

As the VRWA has identified Education and Outreach as a major goal within our most recent strategic plan, we have started to build a relationship with NMS. They currently sit on our Education Committee and are working with us to begin implementing an X-Stream Science program within the watershed, also in partnership with the Battle River Watershed Alliance that developed it. The purpose of this program will be to get students out into the field to get some hands-on learning experience in water quality monitoring and learning about their watershed. NMS has also helped the VRWA recently, with six students designing and building the structures to hold our Eco-Buffer signs at Geleta Park in Two Hills and the Vegreville Regional Museum.

Justina Peters and Sydney Chanasyk, both grade 7 students, tour the ALUS test site location to plan future sustainable development projects.
New Myrnam School students working on the design for the EcoBuffer signs.

The VRWA is extremely excited to work with NMS and are proud of what the school and students are accomplishing within the watershed. They set a high bar and an incredible example for learning and stewardship for others within the watershed.

Michelle Gordy, Ph.D.
Michelle Gordy, Ph.D.Watershed Planning Coordinator
North Saskatchewan Watershed Alliance