Thursday, 14 July 2016

Vending machines in schools -- yay or nay? A heated debate at the the Kneehill Historical Museum Mock Legislature

On Friday, May 13, the Kneehill Historical Museum, the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, Three Hills School, and local community members joined together to host a mini-mock legislature. I took a road trip to the town of Three Hills for a front row seat to the proceedings.

A class of grade six students from the nearby Three Hills School acted as elected representatives, with local MLA Nathan Cooper playing the double role of premier and instructor. Presiding over the event was Richard Marz, previously the Deputy Speaker, who played the role in his own authentic robe and hat. Students were arranged into the ‘Sagebrush’ party, who acted as the government, and the ‘Oiler’ party, who acted as the official opposition, along with two independents. The stage was set for a riveting debate. 
The topic: should vending machines be banned in schools?

The program was an enlightening breakdown of provincial parliamentary process, which can be difficult to understand, even for adults. ‘Speaker’ Marz outlined the procedural rules for the students, before MLA Nathan Cooper lead the students through the process of passing a Bill: first reading, committee, second and third readings, amendments, and finally, passage. Between each segment, Cooper took a moment to discuss the process and take questions from the students.

The students came prepared with talking points for or against the bill, and engaged in a lively debate. They were, at first, reluctant to step too far away from their speaking notes, but as the debate carried on they grew more impassioned. “Vending machines are an important source of revenue for our schools!” a member of the opposition would say, amid the hearty thumping of applause of his fellow mock MLA’s. “The health of our children is more important than money!” retorted a member of the government, who received an approving cheer from Cooper himself.

In the end, with amendments defeated and debate exhausted, the students took a final vote to pass the bill, before breaking for cookies and lemonade. Cooper then gave a history of the Legislative buildings, adding that it has a connection to the town of Three Hills and the Kneehill Historical Museum, and answered questions from the students on a variety of topics.

Through innovative programs such as this, the Kneehill Historical Museum has built their institution as a true community space. Thanks to the combined efforts of the museum, the Legislative Assembly, and a range of local community members, this innovative program provided all those involved with education, entertainment, and a renewed appreciation for the process of Canadian parliament. 

Andrew Dool
Alberta Museums Association

For more information on hosting a Mock Legislature, visit

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