This is no ordinary Zoom meeting. Chick-hatching time has arrived in Baker Kindergarten. The usual Morning Meeting seems more like a chicken maternity ward than a class participating in E-learning. Kindergarteners are ready. They’ve kept track of the number of days until the chicks hatch using their official Egg Hatching Journal. They’ve witnessed how to candle an egg with a special light to see inside. They’ve illustrated the stages of embryo development. They’ve been patient.
Students lean curiously close to their video screens to watch their classmate, Lennox point out the egg tooth poking through the pip on an egg in his home incubator when something happens.
“My chick! My chick is hatching…it’s coming out right now!” announces Henry. Henry has an incubator at his house too.
Associate Teacher, Ms. Beth shifts the students’ attention to Henry, spotlighting his video for the class. “Show it to us, Henry!” The ever-smiling Henry proceeds to run through his house as his little brother follows, the computer camera bobbing up and down in a blurry wave of action. Mr. Leach, standing watch over the eggs in the incubator like a mother hen, points to an egg. The cracked shell is shaking. The chick inside breaths in and out, and the shell expands and shrinks. The shell opens then closes. It opens. Then closes. It opens and…bloop! Out flops a wet, black baby chick. The kids ooh and aah, and so do their parents seated next to them watching the birth unfold.
“That’s what happened to my eggs,” says Emmy.
“Show us, Emmy!” says Ms. Beth, engaging the class again.
Emmy points her camera to the incubator at her house. The kindergarteners see two fluffy baby chicks pecking at the incubator window. Talkative Emmy and her mom describe how their family spent the night before watching the chicks hatch.
Then the best surprise happens. Mrs. Rampey appears on the screen to show students the chicks that hatched at her house. The kindergarteners are happier, of course, to see their beloved teacher than they are the chicks. She explains how she had candled all of her eggs and nearly threw out one egg, thinking it would not hatch. Yet, she kept it. And the chick did hatch!
Success! Kindergarten teachers had pulled off Baker’s tradition of hatching chicks despite distance-learning challenges during Covid-19. It happened through careful teacher planning and the desire to give Baker Kinder Kids the best experience possible. Families pitched in too.
Prior to beginning the chick unit, a poll was sent to families to see who might be interested in becoming an egg hatcher. The plan included Mrs. Rampey and her family hosting 12 chick eggs while 3 kinder families would host 6 eggs each. Ms. Beth would be the sole duck hatcher with 12 Walsh Harlequin Ducks in her incubator since those take an additional 7 days to hatch. Are you following? A lot of math here and those numbers were skillfully woven into the chick lessons.
Then a low-cost incubator with egg candler was delivered to participating family’s homes. Later, Ms. Beth drove 130 miles to Sunset Barn Family Farm in Prophetstown, Illinois to pick up the fresh eggs which consisted of a rainbow collection of chick breeds. The intent was to hatch a diverse flock of chicks.
That evening, Mrs. Rampey delivered the eggs to peoples’ homes so all the families could add their eggs to the incubator around the same time. Families also received a heat lamp and a feeder.
For the following three weeks, kindergarteners (with or without eggs in their home) were actively involved in the chick hatching experience. Students got to virtually visit Ms. Beth’s bathroom in total darkness as she candled the first chick egg, pointing out the air cell and its purpose, as well as the blood vessels. Kits with handmade materials were dropped off at each students’ home containing items such as chicken/duck breed identification cards, Base-10 & baby chick counters, and mini-books about chicks. These instructional materials helped tie together literacy, math and science concepts. Additionally, families with eggs shared how they made brooder boxes (the place where chicks would be moved after hatching) and feeders from found objects around their homes.
Ms. Beth is quick to point out the life lessons learned while hatching chicks—patience, responsibility, and knowledge. “From the day we put the eggs in our incubators, Baker Kinder Kids learned that hatching eggs is a BIG responsibility,” explained Ms. Beth. “We needed to make sure to turn the eggs daily, check the temperature and humidity of the incubator, and prepare brooder boxes with food and water.”
Kindergarteners became experts on identifying chick breeds based on egg color and size. Students quickly learned the difference between a Legbar, Olive Egger, Black Copper Maran, and Lavender Orpington chicks.
Ms. Beth shared a host of resources (print and technology) to learn specifics about taking care of the chicks/ducks as well as the life cycle. “At each egg-hatcher’s home, there is a Chick Reporter who shares live observations with classmates,” she said. “Students can also check in daily with the chicks via a livestream webcam set up by the Santos-Volpe family.”
Parents learned lessons too. Those with eggs worked together to offer one another moral support when they had doubts. Parents shared information and tips researched on the internet when they didn’t know exactly what to do.
“When things got a little rocky—a chick with a potential seizure disorder and a chick stuck in the egg)—my Baker community of chick hatchers stood by me,” said Baker parent, Megan (Emmy’s mom).
Megan recalled the late night FaceTime calls and early morning text check-ins with Baker parents, and a Sunday visit from Ms. Beth to rescue a chick that had been trying to hatch for 48 hours but couldn’t peck its way out due to a dried membrane. Ms. Beth and Megan used a moist paper towel to wet the egg opening and gently pull the shell a part just enough to help the chick work its way out.
“I learned a lot about chicks, but also about how my strong relationships with Baker parents and teachers supported my learning and development,” said Megan. “I imagine that’s exactly what Emmy and the other kindergartners experienced all year long at Baker. I’m so thankful that I got a little taste of what it is like to be a Baker student.”
Megan said the experience allowed her to travel back in time to see the world through the eyes of a child. “I became so invested in these eggs (now chicks) because I cared so deeply for them. I learned about temperature, air sacks, and the development of the chick within the egg,” she said. “This content knowledge will likely stay with me long after my time with these chicks is over because I experienced learning in such a motivating, immersive, and meaningful way.”
Emily (Henry’s mom) agrees. “Every stage (of the chick hatching experience) has been fascinating. I will never look at chickens the same way after this! We are so grateful to Baker Kinder for giving us this experience,” said Emily.
One parent said the chick hatching experience brought the light back to Baker Kinder after it dimmed with the passing of Mrs. Rampey’s husband, Mike. “We were heartbroken for Mrs. Rampey and her family,” she said. “Tiffany has been a constant positive light in the life of our children. She created so many special memories with them this year. We knew Tiffany wanted her class to still have this wonderful experience together.”
As for the students, Emmy shared her chicks are keeping her busy. “I watched my chicks pop out of an egg. Now I watch them in the brooder box. I watch them eat, drink, and poop (a lot!) This was the most exciting thing I have ever done even though I had to wait 21 days,” said Emmy.
Henry said, “I’ve never hatched an egg in my whole life. It was amazing. I love having chicks because they are so cute and sweet. I wish I could do it again!”
“I liked learning how chicks hatch. Chicks work hard to get out but then they sleep and look like they’re dead, but they’re not dead,” said Lennox.
As of now, the 12 chicks will be heading to a farm in the next week. However, Baker parent, Mercedes (Lennox’s mom) is considering building a chicken coop and keeping the chicks. “My family raised chickens in the Philippines when I was a child. I would like Lennox to share in that same experience.”
“Hatching eggs was real, meaningful and fun,” said Ms. Beth. “Hopefully, each Baker Kinder Kid will walk away from this E-learning experience with a host of wonderful memories and stories to share.”
Chick & duck hatching kits provided to Kindergarteners.
Candling an egg
Henry’s brooder box had windows for chicks to look out and holes to touch the chicks.