by Lisa Tome
Matt Stephen's New York roots are showing.
Stephen, principal at Thomson Estates Elementary School, spent more time in kindergarten classrooms at the school recently because special guests made an appearance. Baby chicks have hatched, a phenomenon Stephen had never seen before.
"It's absolutely exciting to have a chance to experience life," said Stephen. "This is something I hadn't experienced before. It's great that our kids get to see this at five years old and me at 40. It's a great experience."
He isn't the only one who is excited.
"There was a swell of excitement when we heard they were hatching from the adults. We were all sitting and watching and saying come on, get out, get out (of the shell)," said Stephen. "And seeing this for the kids is something they'll remember for the rest of their lives."
The chicks are provided to schools through Maryland Extension in cooperation with video lottery terminal grant funding. The chickens, still in the incubation process, are placed in the kindergarten classrooms.
For chickens, the incubation period takes about three weeks until they hatch. Each classroom receives 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.
The timing has been set so that the hatching will occur as students are studying both farming and life cycles. Hatching chicks can lend themselves to all aspects of education. Students can learn to use a thermometer, learn matching, counting, etc.
"I think they should have them every year. This has been a good experience. This is a good thing to have in the classroom. It's real life perspective. It teaches responsibility and caring for another life," said Stephen.
Kindergarten teacher Bill Clouser agreed.
"The kids are really involved. They write and draw what they saw (the chicks do). This is really exciting for the kids. It has stoked their fire. They want to know more and they are asking more questions," said Clouser.