by Lisa Tome
Some local kindergarten students are about to view a peep show.
Thanks to Maryland Extension and video lottery terminal (VLT) grant funds from Hollywood Casino, chickens still in the incubation process are coming to the classrooms at selected elementary schools.
Through the extension, Cecil County 4-H is providing an incubation and embryology project at local schools in a voluntary basis. For chickens, the incubation period takes about three weeks until they hatch. Each classroom will receive the pre-incubated eggs two weeks into the incubation period. Students and teachers care for and monitor the eggs. After hatching, the new born chicks remain in classrooms for observation for up to three weeks. After the three weeks are up, the chicks will become a 4-H project for local families. Later, the same chicks may appear at the Cecil County Fair in projects from foster families.
Extension staffers 4-H program assistant Victoria Stone and 4-H educator April Barczewski explained that the program has been piloted in schools in the past. This year, due to the VLT grant money, they have been able to reach more schools and provide more resources to the schools. Last year, Conowingo and Bainbridge elementary schools both hosted the program. Additional schools including Bay View, Cecilton, Gilpin Manor, and North East, have signed on for this year.
Each of the schools that have signed on will receive the loaned incubator and eggs, feed and bedding, and hands on lessons from University of Maryland staff.
As of last week, 18 classrooms at seven schools will receive incubated eggs. The first will go into school the week of Valentine's Day.
"We are hoping for a 100 percent hatch rate," said Stone. She did explain that cold weather impacts fertility rates.
Both Stone and Barczewski explained that embryology in the classrooms was popular in the 1980s. The tradition has been revived. The timing has been set so that the hatching will occur as students are studying both farming and life cycles.
Barczewski said that the hatching chicks can lend themselves to all aspects of education. Students can learn to use a thermometer, learn matching, counting, etc.