by Lisa Tome
Terri Fisher saves the best lessons for the end of the school year. At least she thinks so. And her kindergarten students clearly agree.
Last week, Fisher's classroom at Conowingo Elementary became home to three eggs and an incubator. This week, if the timing is right, one or all of those eggs will hatch.
"It's the most exciting part of the year. It's something that might hatch. Maybe they'll all hatch and hopefully, we can capture that moment," said Fisher.
Through Maryland Extension and grant funds, Cecil County 4-H is providing an incubation and embryology project at all the local elementary schools and at a few community sites. For chickens, the incubation period takes about three weeks until they hatch. Fisher's classroom and others throughout the county receive the pre-incubated eggs two weeks into the incubation period. Students and teachers care for and monitor the eggs. After hatching, the newborn chicks remain in classrooms for observation for up to three weeks.
Extension staffer 4-H program assistant Victoria Stone provides support in the classrooms. She teaches practical lessons in the classrooms three times during the embryology unit. Students learn about feeding, bedding, and warming the peeps. Stone explained that about 60 classrooms are receiving these lessons throughout the county.
"I get excited. This is real life stuff," said Fisher. She and her family have chickens at home. The embryology unit was the catalyst for that. She adopted chickens after they were in her classroom. "The chickens were motivation for my son to finish his Eagle Scout project," said Fisher.
And at school, the students are ready for the responsibility of hatching and caring for baby chicks.
"They take it seriously. They observe them and ask questions. They remind me that the chicks need food and water on weekends," said Fisher.
In addition to the life cycle education, Fisher has also been able to incorporate the eggs/chicks into other areas of study. Counting down the days until the chicks arrive helped with numbers. They also learned about the different parts of an egg. They also speculated about the different varieties of chicks that could come from the eggs in the classroom.
Student Nataleigh Ruisard has a bird's eye view. "The eggs are going to hatch. I sit next to it (the incubator)," she said.
Her fellow kindergartner, Tripp Antognoli, is so involved with embryology that he dreams about it. "I dreamed a blue chick came out of one of the eggs," he said. And that is possible.
The students have determined that one of the eggs could become a Delaware blue hen.
"This is so rewarding. It's been a highlight of the year. This is my 30th year of teaching and it engages them so much. I wish I had more time with the chicks," said Fisher.