Students replace birdhouses

When an energy company inadvertently removed some birdhouses along a road it was expanding east of Innisfail, a unique way to right a wrong and offer students at Innisfail Junior Senior High School a special learning experience was hatched.

Grade 9 student Dwight Stemmler installs the birdhouse he made at Innisfail Junior Senior High School. The project was funded by Quicksilver Resources Canada Inc. after the company had removed some birdhouses while expanding a road to its sweet natural gas processor

Grade 9 student Dwight Stemmler installs the birdhouse he made at Innisfail Junior Senior High School. The project was funded by Quicksilver Resources Canada Inc. after the company had removed some birdhouses while expanding a road to its sweet natural gas processor

When an energy company inadvertently removed some birdhouses along a road it was expanding east of Innisfail, a unique way to right a wrong and offer students at Innisfail Junior Senior High School a special learning experience was hatched.

Quicksilver Resources Canada Inc. expanded its road to its sweet natural gas processor in the Aberdeen area last year and in the process of doing so, eight birdhouses along the road were removed along Range Road 271, 15 km east of Innisfail off Hwy 590.

A number of people approached Penny Archibald, a Chinook’s Edge School Division trustee and Red Deer County councillor, because they were concerned about the removal and she spoke to company officials, suggesting students might be able to rebuild the lost birdhouses.

David Morris, senior community relations representative with Quicksilver Resources Canada Inc., approached Innisfail Junior Senior High School about the project and Barry Roberts, a career and technology studies teacher, jumped on board.

They consulted with the Ellis Bird Farm to get the proper specifications for tree swallows and bluebirds, which are species in the area. As it turns out, the birds don’t like anything too fancy but prefer plain colours, a hole around 40 mm wide and spacing of the houses a few metres apart once they are installed.

Roberts put his Grade 9 students to work on building the birdhouses, taking two weeks to construct them out of spruce plywood. Recently, 13 of the birdhouses were installed in the area where the initial eight had been removed.

The students “were pumped. They were excited,” Roberts said. “They were very well-behaved and we went on a tour of the (compressor) plant.”

The project cost Quicksilver Resources around $100 for 10 birdhouse kits from the Ellis Bird Farm, with Roberts coming up with materials for the other birdhouses.

“We arranged an afternoon, the weather co-operated and the kids were great. They not only took to the project, but they were very attentive in the tour and asked some good questions and there was some good feedback,” Morris said.

Morris said now that Quicksilver has made contacts at the school, the company will be involved with other initiatives there, such as the school’s career day. “It’s one of these inadvertent things, you make an error and you try to correct it, and in doing so you make the situation better than what it was to begin with,” he said.

sobrien@bprda.wpengine.com