Enjoying the miracle of birth with chickens

Thursday, April 29, 2004

It starts with one tiny hole, just big enough for a beak the size of a pen tip to poke through. The hole grows with each peck of the beak until finally a matted head, followed by a body, struggles through the shell.

And just like that, students at Clippard Elementary have witnessed the miracle of birth, chicken style. It's not a pretty miracle, the students have discovered, but it definitely brings new life to the classroom.

"It was cool watching how they come out," said 8-year-old Polly Shantz, a second-grader at Clippard. "We stayed in at recess to watch one break through."

Clippard students in kindergarten through third grade are participating in the 4-H Club embryology school enrichment project, which places incubators with ready-to-hatch eggs in classrooms throughout Cape Girardeau, Scott and Perry counties.

Donna Taake, 4-H youth specialist with University of Missouri Outreach and Extension, said most children have no idea how a chicken is hatched.

"So many families are several generations removed from the farm," Taake said. "We're in a society where everything comes from the grocery store, not the farm."

Principal Sydney Herbst said her school has participated in the program for three years. Herbst even wears chicken-themed shirts during the week the chicks are at school.

"It's a life cycle that they get to see," Herbst said. "One of the good lessons surrounding it is that not every chick hatches."

Around 50 chicks have hatched at Clippard since Tuesday. Speedy, a soft, yellow chick, took only 10 minutes to break through his shell in Jill Janet's kindergarten classroom. After Speedy came seven other chicks in a variety of colors.

"We have a very diverse group here, which is a great social studies lesson because that's the way our class is too," Janet said. "We won't all get to go to a farm, so we bring the chicks to the classroom."

Students in some classes are writing about the chicks' progress in journals. After hatching, the chicks are moved to heated cardboard boxes to await pickup at the end of this week.


335-6611, extension 128

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