Thirty-five schools spring into embryology
Posted on 05/01/2019
Two girls with baby chicksThe sounds of peeping can be heard at 35 schools in Prince William County as baby chicks have hatched. The embryology STEAM project is made possible by a partnership with the Virginia Cooperative Extension’s 4-H program.

Emily Chloe, Prince William County embryology program coordinator, explained that the project is significant for many students after observing that most students in the school division live primarily in suburban neighborhoods. They get their food from grocery stores and restaurants and often haven’t had the chance to experience the cycle of life that their more rural counterparts likely have.

“It's a real-life opportunity to see things happen the way they do in nature, and to learn different skills, such as how to keep records as you're managing those eggs while waiting for them to hatch and learning principles of care for those creatures,” Chloe explained. Chloe pointed out that the 4-H educational materials associated with the project address Standards of Learning (SOL’s) for math, life science, English and computer technology for all grade levels. In addition, there are lessons about animal husbandry.

Freedom High’s school librarian, Sharon Bussey, sprang into the project with enthusiasm for her STEAM club. “The students are getting hands-on experience managing the care of the eggs and the chicks. There’s a lot for them to learn about, temperature and humidity requirements for eggs, then the chicks’ care after hatching,” she explained. “The students learned about candling, the process of checking the viability of eggs/chicks. We held the eggs up one by one to a flashlight, looking at the embryos to check for movement as they grew.”

Bussey’s students agreed that the candling was the most interesting part of the program, that is, until the chicks actually hatched. Then the ‘chicks fan club’ started building as students, teachers and staff became interested in the new life at their school. Even the preschool program at Freedom High School enjoyed the treat of visiting the peeps.

Independence Nontraditional School students and staff were likewise excited by their opportunity to learn about embryology and experience the awe of new life. Instructional Technology Coach Peggi Knight became the chick wrangler for Independence Nontraditional School. She commented, “The adults on our staff are as excited about the chicks as the students are! Sometimes it’s therapeutic to have a few minutes petting a baby chick. It’s so soothing.”

Independence Nontraditional School Senior Teresa explained why two of their chicks were separated from the rest. “They’re by themselves because they were not like the rest.” Tenth grade student Edguardo chimed in, “They were being bullied by their brood-mates. Shelly and Patches were basically being stepped all over by the other chicks, so we had to move them to another home.”

Matt Grimsley, earth science and sustainability teacher at Independence Nontraditional, said, “In earth science we compared the eggs to the parts of the earth; the crust, the mantle and the core. Which are like the shell of the egg, the egg whites and the yolk. But of course, the sustainability lesson with this project is food. Food for the whole world, so that connection is a natural.”

Librarians and staff pitched in to care for the eggs, even reading to them pre-hatching. Independence Nontraditional School Principal Robert Eichorn was a frequent visitor. He often checked-in with the students as they visited and cared for the chicks.

In addition to Freedom High and Independence Nontraditional School, the following elementary schools also participated in embryology project: Antietam, Bel Air, Bristow Run, Cedar Point, Coles, Dale City, Enterprise, Featherstone, Fitzgerald, Henderson, Kyle Wilson, Lake Ridge, Loch Lomond, Marshall, McAuliffe, Minnieville, Mountain View, Mullen, Occoquan, Signal Hill, Sudley, Triangle, Vaughan, Victory and Yorkshire Elementary Schools.

Bull Run and Stonewall Middle Schools, along with Battlefield, Forest Park and Woodbridge High Schools, enjoyed watching their brood go from eggs to peeps. The Nokesville School, Porter Traditional School and the Head Start Programs at Chris Yung Elementary and Gar-Field High also had fun with this unique and educational project.

Watch the video to see some of the ‘eggsitement’ with this educational project.