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Reading, Writing, and Agriculture
Central Illinois classrooms are taking on a new subject. The embryology program gives students a try at hatching a common farm animal, and chirping chicks are a sure sign it’s spring. Embryology may sound a little advanced for a group of kindergarteners, but they are learning a lot by watching the chicks develop and finally hatch.
"We've compared our needs as human to the chicks needs and figured out they're about the same," Our Savior Lutheran Teacher Sarah Watts said. "We all need food, water, and air to breathe."
From Pre-K on up, 4-H is sponsoring 44 classrooms by providing them with incubators and training to hatch eggs. In older age groups, students get to observe and record changes in the developing chicks.
"They're able to candle eggs and see through the shells to see," 4-H Coordinator Susan Lounsberry explained. "Then we have a poster that shows the embryonic development over the whole process and then they see the final product when the chicks hatch."
Once hatched, the tiny yellow chicks are classroom pets for the next couple days, before they're distributed to local farmers or 4-H students in the poultry project. Two sessions of embryology are offered each spring: one just before Easter, and one after the break.
"Most kids don't have access or see something like that happen," Lounsberry said. "If they didn't live on a farm they'd never see that process, so it gets new things out there in front of the kids,"
Each classroom pays $15 to participate in the program, which has been successful for decades. It takes some work to care for the eggs through their development, but Watts said her students are all too eager to help.
Embryology is just one agriculture lesson teachers can choose. Agriculture in the Classroom (AITC) is a program coordinated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Illinois Farm Bureau. If schools are interested in teaching students more about farming, they can contact the Ag Literacy Coordinator at (217) 753-4611.