What’s Crackin’ in the First Grade?

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Author Roxie Munro discussing artwork.

During the last few weeks of school, Ms. Vazquez’s first grade classroom at P.S. 98 in Inwood was the place to be. That’s because her 29 students became the proud parents of six baby chicks and everyone in the school – teachers and students alike – wanted a peek.

The chicks were the centerpiece of a program we developed around Roxie Munro’s Hatch! – a fantastic book that features detailed illustrations and descriptive text about different birds, their eggs, their incubation and brooding techniques and other various habitats. Roxie talked to the class about the incredible amount of research that goes into each of her books. She even shared one of her interactive “walk-in books” that consists of life-sized panels of her illustrations, so that children can feel truly immersed in the world she’s created. In addition to the birds in the book, the children also learned about feathered friends in their own backyard with a trip to Inwood Hill Park. Led by an Urban Park Ranger, they spotted grackles, mallards, and starlings.

Field trip!

But the class’s main focus throughout their ornithology journey was their very own hatch project. For 21 days, the students waited patiently, checking the humidity and temperature of their in-classroom incubator. Every week they “candled” the eggs, using an LED light to observe stages of growth occurring inside. Then, using hatch journals, they wrote about their experience, making observations and predictions about what they saw and what they expected might happen. As part of their writing project with Behind the Book volunteers, the children wrote their chicks letters in anticipation of their arrival. Finally, on day 20, the class observed their first “pip” – a small crack in the egg made by one chick ready to meet his new friends.  The five others quickly followed and within three days all had hatched – fluffy and healthy.

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One of the six most-loved baby chicks in NYC.

It should come as no surprise that there were 29 separate names for the class pets. During our last visit, the children gathered in small groups around each of the chicks for one final petting and goodbye. The chicks were then transported to Brooklyn and donated to the City Chicken Project, a part of Just Food’s Urban Agriculture Program, which helps educate chicken keepers in NYC.

The program was memorable for all involved and we anticipate more than a few requests for a Hatch! project next year.

This is a guest post by BtB Program Coordinator Shana Druckerman, who developed this delightful program.