Tragedy struck this weekend at A2 STEAM, a K-8 Ann Arbor public magnet school program housed in Northside Elementary School, when a fire Saturday night killed several chickens being raised by A2 STEAM students.
The fire department was called about 9:20 p.m. with a report of flames on the side of the school. According to Derek Wiseley, Ann Arbor Fire Battalion chief, when firefighters arrived on the scene, they found the adjacent chicken coop to be on fire.
The fire was put out within 20 minutes of the call, but the firefighters were unable to save four of the coop’s five chickens. The surviving chicken is being cared for at a local animal hospital and is expected to survive.
The incident has taken a toll on A2 STEAM students and families, Wiseley told MLive. Parents and teachers came to the school Saturday night to offer help and assess the damage.
“It's a big deal for these kids and the parents and everybody,” Wiseley said. “There were some parents on the scene that were clearly upset.”
Designed and built by students, the chicken coop has been a centerpiece of the fifth- and sixth-grade curriculum at A2 STEAM since 2015. It’s used for lessons and activities, and students sell their chickens’ eggs through an online order form. According to a website dedicated to the project, students even build chicken coops for outside clients.
A2 STEAM administrators and Jeanice Swift, superintendent for Ann Arbor Public Schools, have already discussed rebuilding the coop. In an email to district families on Sunday, Swift urged students to learn from this incident.
“Right away, I heard from amazing A2STEAM teachers last night of their intention to use this situation as a learning and growth opportunity and of their determination to rebuild,” Swift said in the email. “What an excellent teachable moment for all of us.”
Though the cause of the fire is still unconfirmed, an email statement sent to families from A2 STEAM Principal Megan Fenech and Assistant Principal Brooke Stidham said initial reports indicate a heater placed in the coop to keep the chickens warm is likely the source.