On Monday, Cassville Intermediate School students witnessed the birth of dozens of baby chicks. Special services teacher Greg Turner has supervised a hatching project in his classroom over the last 21 days.
"I love watching the kids' faces as they watch the eggs hatch," said Turner. "I've also enjoyed watching the eggs in the incubator myself. It's a lot better than watching TV at home."
Earlier this year, Turner decided that he wanted to hatch eggs as a class project. When Turner shared his idea with his daughter, Julie Gabbard, who produces hatching eggs at her farm in West Fork, Ark., she offered to provide seven dozen eggs for the project.
Gabbard sent seven different breeds of chickens, including: Plymouth Barred Rock; Red Kraienkoppe; Brown Leg Horn; Blue Hamburg; Red Silkie; Golden Lakenvelder; and Black Australorp.
"The kids were here when we put the eggs in the incubator," said Turner. "They learned how to put the eggs in small end down, and they learned how the incubator works. It rotates the eggs three to four times a day."
After the eggs were placed in the incubator, which was provided by the Cassville High School FFA, the students were responsible for checking the incubator temperature to ensure it remained at 99.5 degrees. They were also in charge of monitoring the incubator's humidity level.
"Charli Jo Epperly (Cassville High School agriculture teacher) provided all the equipment," said Turner. "She has been great."
Cassville High School FFA member Parker Stumpff also assisted with the class project by sharing a wealth of agriculture information with the students.
"Parker came over the first week and went through chicken facts," said Turner. "He shared a hatching chart and stories about his own chickens. He also brought a video for the students to watch that showed what happens from the time a chicken hatches until they see a dozen eggs in the store."
Although students have stopped by Turner's classroom to peek into the incubator several times over the last few weeks, the project drew even more interest and excitement when the eggs began to hatch this week.
"This is the highlight of the project," said Turner. "We had several individual students come in before classes even started today."
Turner's special needs students had the opportunity to share the information they have learned about the chicks with students visiting their classroom.
"I hope my students have developed an interest in how things are born, and a greater love for animals," said Turner. "I think they are gaining the knowledge that things don't just happen. It requires careful conditions to allow animals to live."
Turner also hopes that his students have developed an early interest in chicken projects that they can work on in high school FFA.
"These students will likely be involved in farming or other agriculture interests," said Turner. "I hope this is one option that they might be interested in."
Over the next few weeks, the students will learn to care for the baby chicks by ensuring water containers are full and adequate feed is available for the chickens at all times.
"They will check the temperatures and wash and clean the quarters," sad Turner. "They will have to clean up any chicken mess that we have."
The chickens will also be used in daily lessons, such as math. Turner incorporates the hatching project by asking his students to count the different types of chickens and add the total number of chicks.
In the next few weeks, most of the chicks will be moved to the high school for future chicken projects, but the Red Silkies will remain in Turner's classroom for most of the spring.
"The Red Silkies are the gentlest," said Turner. "They are called the lap dog of chickens."
On Friday, Turner's students will be treated to another special event. The kids will take part in a field trip that will visit a local egg production farm.