A Very Special Eggs-perience

Media specialist Lisa Melby (at left) designed “Mama Hen” T shirts for herself and assistant Danielle Gjestvang.

Nancy Edmonds Hanson

Ellen Hopkins Elementary’s students shared an eggs-tra special lesson in the days before Easter … waiting around the cluck for one of Nature’s springtime miracles. Just inside the door of the media center, media specialist Lisa Kelly had set up a chance to glimpse the emergence of chicks from the shells that sheltered them.
“They could hardly wait,” she says of the eager youngsters fascinated with Hopkins Hatch ’24. As classes filed in for their weekly library lessons, they’d eye the incubator just inside the door. “It was the first thing they’d see and ask about. They had so many questions!”
“We definitely had more traffic at other times, too,” she adds. “Some would sneak in here to check on them before or after school or during bathroom breaks. They just had to see if anything was happening.”
There was plenty of excitement throughout the school on March 20, when the first of two fuzzy baby chicks pecked their way out of the brown and white shells before the rapt youngsters’ eyes. The second pitted its shell a day later. “Our luck wasn’t as good as last year, when we tried this for the first time,” Lisa notes regretfully. “Only two of our 12 eggs hatched this time. But that was another lesson.” Regardless, the tiny birds emergence was cause for celebration among the young eggs-perts.
Lisa, who grew up on a farm near Pelican Rapids where her parents raise chickens, introduced the glimpse of life last year at Probstfield Elementary School. With the support of principal Karla Smith, she obtained an egg incubator capable of holding the temperature at 99.9 degrees with a constant 50% humidity. “That first one didn’t rotate the eggs, so I came in twice a day for 21 days to turn them,” she remembers. “This year she found us one with automatic rotation – much less work.”
With the relocation of Spanish immersion classes to Probstfield, this year’s mini-hatchery moved to Hopkins along with the classes of kindergartners through fourth graders. During the three weeks the children awaited the arrival of chicks, their library lessons began with the topic that fascinated them. Lisa began lessons with updates on the much-watched eggs. She set up a board for the 21-day countdown, complete with illustrations of what was developing inside the shells. Their reading featured books starring chickens and their babies. “The kids had so many great questions,” she reports. “We loved it.”
And she and Danielle Gjestvang carried out the theme themselves, wearing “Mama Hen” T shirts she designed.
As they awaited the big day, the kids could keep an eye on the incubator around the clock. Lisa set up a webcam so that they could see what was happening 24 hours a day on Youtube. Teachers could pull it up in their classrooms to check on the big moment. “Some classes would chant encouragement and scream as they came out of their shells,” Lisa says. “It was so exciting.” (The webcam video was still live as of Tuesday at www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdcXlrfC3WM)
But the chicks do what chicks do best: Grow. Lisa moved them, along with the camera, to a brooder, a large tote equipped with a warming plate beneath a warming table. There the two newest Hopkins youngsters have been eating chick starter food, sipping water and gaining strength atop a cozy bed of wood chips.
But their time in the media center may soon come to an end. “The way they’re growing, this might be our last week of having them here for the kids,” the media specialist cautions. She plans to bring them home, where a larger box awaits them. Eventually they will move to her parents’ farm, where – if they lucky enough to be hens – they will join their fellow egg layers. “We won’t know whether they are hens or roosters for a couple more weeks,” she cautions.
So the last days of the Hopkins Hatch lie just ahead. The school’s youngsters will undoubtedly miss the fuzzy duo whose emergence they anticipated for what seemed like so long. “This has been an amazing learning experience,” Lisa observes. Perhaps you might call it egg-straordinary.

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