Students chair Birch Hills Town Council meeting

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald Birch Hills Mayor Stewart Adams (right) gives Birch Hills Public School Grade 5 students Cole Shore (left) and Elin Cochrane (centre) a crash course in running a town council meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 19.

A pair of Birch Hills elementary school students got a first-hand look at what it’s like to do business at town council on Wednesday, Oct. 19.

Birch Hills Public School Grade 5 president Elin Cochrane and vice president Cole Shore chaired the first 20 minutes of the Birch Hills Town Council at the Birch Hills Civic Centre.

The opportunity came after Grade 5 teacher Josh Donauer reached out to Mayor Stewart Adams to see if he would come and talk to the class about what it is like to be the Mayor. Adams accepted the invitation, and visited the class last month.

“I think it’s really important for young people to be exposed to councils and democracy and how it works,” Adams said.

“(Councillor) Graham (Twetan) and I went to class and sat down and Josh was good enough to ask the kids to come up with some questions and he sent them to me ahead of time,” he added. “Then Graham and I responded to that and answered any other questions that they had.”

The list of questions included some hardballs like whether Birch Hills’ elected officials regretted running for public office, or how much money they made in their role as mayor and councillor. However, there were also civic-minded questions like ‘what are some responsibilities mayor and councillors have’, along with some personal questions like what made them want to run for public office in the first place.

One student asked if there was a town limousine.

“Does the Mayor show up to work every day in a limousine? I’m lucky if I get here in a half ton,” said Adams, who served on council from 2007 to 2012 before leaving politics for a decade and returning as mayor in 2022.

According to Donauer, the most pressing question was which house Adams lived in.

“I have got a big rock in front of my house,” Adams told the class.

At the end of the meeting, Adams and Twetan extended an invitation to the winners of the class election to visit Birch Hills council.

The election occurred about a month ago around the time of Twetan and Adam’s visit to the class.

Adams gave Cochrane and Shore a quick crash course in chairing a town council meeting before the duo took over. The students were responsible for calling the meeting to order along with a declaration of Multicultural Day and correspondence. Cochrane chaired the start of the meeting before Shore took over for the final part.

Shore said that he was excited to chair the meeting and Cochrane said she was nervous.

“That you don’t drink weird stuff to become Mayor,” Cochrane said when asked what she learned from the visit.

That may seem strange, but class elections at Birch Hills Public School can get quite competitive.

Cochrane is entering her second term as President after winning in a Grade 4/Grade 5 split classroom last year. Donauer said the class takes the election very seriously, with candidates promising their classmates they’ll do things like eating a worm if they win.

In Cochrane’s case, she promised to bring her cat to school, but the year before, she drank warm milk, a warm juice box, and finished it off with warm yogurt.

Shore countered by promising to take the class to the wave pool, a vow he has yet to fulfill.

“I can’t do it because she is President and I am vice,” Shore said.

Cochrane said that she could not be lobbied to make that happen.

Cochrane was able to serve two terms because last year there was afternoon split classes Donauer’s class is the only one at the school that has an election. He said the goal is to help students learn about how governments are chosen, and hopefully, it will lead to students taking leadership roles when they enter high school and university.