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Class Is for the Birds: Steenrod Elementary Students Witness Baby Chicks Hatch

Photos by Joselyn King Steenrod Elementary School kindergarten students observe newborn baby chicks recently hatched at the school and just out of the incubator.

WHEELING — They are very young, cute and cuddly, and can make some noise when they want attention.

Kindergarten students at Steenrod Elementary got to watch this week as baby chicks hatched from eggs nurtured in incubators within their own classrooms. On Friday, the students got to hold Henny, Penny and Squeaky, and Uno and Deuce, and more eggs are about to hatch.

There are about 50 students in three kindergarten classrooms at Steenrod, and each classroom has its own incubator. The chicks sit quiet as the students gather around their cages to watch them — that is until the students leave the room to go to lunch or recess.

“They are content when the students are there,” explained Joann Vanhorn, health and physical education teacher at Steenrod. “They love company, and the more the better.

“They will just peep and peep when the students are not in the room.”

Vanhorn has overseen the chick-hatching efforts in the kindergarten classrooms for about the last eight years.

Her family first started raising chickens 15 years ago after her son had broken an arm. The doctor suggested eating free-range eggs would help the arm heal stronger.

Vanhorn said they are always ones to try new things, and embraced the idea of raising chickens.

“We make our own maple syrup and do other projects,” she said.

Steenrod kindergarten student Cal Dailer holds one of the newly hatched chicks.

Over time she has learned much about chickens, and shares that knowledge with the kindergarten students. They learn what the duties of the hen and rooster are in the hatching of a new-born chick. While a hen lays an egg each day, it has to be fertilized by the rooster for it to become a chick, VanHorn explained.

They learn that not all eggs are white, and the colors vary based on the breed of chicken.

The students see chickens hatch from brown eggs coming from Buff Orpington hens, and greenish color ones come from Ameraucana hens. The white eggs come from Plymouth Rock hens, according to Vanhorn.

The eggs come from local farms, she said.

And the kindergarten life science lessons don’t stop with chickens. The students have planted grass in plastic cups, and put a photo of themself on the outside. As they see the grass grow, they cut it and “give themselves a haircut.”

They are also watching tadpoles — fresh from a pond at Principal Michelle Dietrich’s home — evolve within an aquarium.

Vanhorn said two of the chicks born this week may find a permanent home at the school. She is hoping to build a coop outside the school, and have students involved with their care and gathering the eggs on a daily basis.

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