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First graders at Meadowlark Elementary School: Make Way for Poultry


May 15, 2019

Jaxton Crowley studies the flock to decide which chick he wants to hold.

The first graders at Meadowlark Elementary School have been studying life cycles, and to make the experience more memorable and indelible, their teacher Mrs. Tammy Edwards decided to give them a visual. So, a month ago, she contacted René Brown and secured eighteen chicken eggs for incubation. Carmen Van Voast also donated eggs to the project.

After twenty-one days of monitoring incubator conditions, observing embryo development, reading stories, drawing life-cycle diagrams, writing about the stages in a chicken's life, and learning terminology like blood vessels, air sac, and membranes, this past week the first graders celebrated the birth of their chicks.

"Although I have candled the eggs in the past, the incubator we used has a microscope attachment that is really cool to see the blood vessels and growth in the eggs. We did that several times," Edwards said.

When the first chick hatched on Sunday, May 5, Edwards was fearful that the birthing event would happen without her students' being able to bear witness. "I actually discovered the first pip on Saturday, and I was very concerned that I may have put the eggs into the incubator a day too early. I crossed my fingers and hoped that some would hold off until Monday for my students!" Edwards reported.

Although "mother hen" spent the weekend worrying, the hatching continued so that four chicks pecked their way into the world on Monday while the first graders watched.

Edwards adopted the chick project the first year she taught first grade in 2004-2005. Her mother-in-law, Cherie Edwards, had included the chick hatching unit in fifth grade science but stopped when she moved to fourth grade because the project didn't fit the science curriculum. When the younger Edwards returned to the classroom this year-after three years in the library-and was assigned to teach first grade, she was determined to give the students this miracle of life experience.

"It goes well with first grade science and some of the stories in our reading series," Edwards said. "However, I'm thinking something was off in the one incubator because two of the eighteen eggs hatched in it while sixteen out of eighteen hatched in the other one."

Guests visiting the classroom on May 9 were greeted with learning excitement, as students were eager to share information about the incubation period, proper handling techniques, and the joy in teaching the chicks how to eat and how to drink since the babies didn't have an adult hen to show them how.

"They think we're their mom," first grader Talyn Collins said. "We had to teach them how to drink." Collins also demonstrated how to hold the chicks so as to protect them and keep them safe.

First graders Makenzie Miller and Rian Molyneaux reveal their enthusiasm for the classroom's recent residents.

When asked to name the most exciting part of the science unit, Makenzie Miller said, "Getting to see them hatching." Rian Molyneaux, on the other hand, stated: "Getting to hold them."

Several of the other students called out how they had seen blood vessels under the microscope or described the air sac and the egg membrane. Some even described the life cycle or shared names of certain chicks, such as Flapper and Redhead.

On the wall outside the classroom, the students' life cycle drawings were displayed beside their coloring pages and diagrams of the life cycle of a butterfly. As second graders, they will watch butterflies emerge from their chrysalises in the pupa stage.

Although the chicks returned to the farm on Friday, May 10, three duck eggs were still incubating on the counter in the first grade classroom. "Twenty eight days is the hatch time for ducks," first grader Kelli Malsam announced.


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