Peeps and quackers go together like cheese and crackers.
At least that seems to be the case in the sixth grade science course each spring as class members study embryology that runs the gamut from receiving donated eggs to taking the hatchlings home to raise.
The annual life-learning event at the Hamburg Middle School is currently taught by Mrs. Beth Horrigan and Mr. Joe Sinkovich. It involves hands-on work, classroom learning and self-study, as the weeks unfold during late spring.
With eggs donated by community members, such as rising Hamburg High School freshman Gaetana (Tana) Argot, of Bernville, her grandparents and others, the students learn how eggs become chicks and ducklings, using an incubator that functions as a Mother Hen or a Mother Duck.
It involves candling the eggs for a healthy air sac, keeping the temperature and moisture content just right, learning about what to feed when the chicks and ducklings are hatched.
More lessons include comparing and contrasting the two forms of feathered friends, through their life cycle and finally being able to gently hold the newborns, as well as keeping their temporary quarters in school and even making sure the ducklings get water time for cleanliness, before those recently hatched go to welcoming homes in the larger community.
With notebook from sixth grade still at hand, Tana recalled how the students studied a variety of things about the future peeps and quackers brought to school.
That work included looking at what’s inside the egg at certain stages and doing a 3-D model of an egg.
“It was pretty cool to learn how the embryo looks inside the egg at various time intervals,” said Tana. “We had to label parts of the chicken and compared the temperature of a brooding hen to a student, the room and the incubator.”
Class members learned new vocabulary such as “chalazae,” the “strings” attaching the yolk to the egg white and each day some student “had to check the incubator temperature and turn the eggs.”
Newer models of incubators, she knows, are able to do that themselves.
They studied the domestication of the chicken and the modern chicken industry.
Her favorite part of the project, and that of many other students then and since, was and is, “When the chicks hatch.”
Students got to hold the chicks and ducklings as they were kept for about a week at the school, and then they went home.
Tana herself took several chicks home last year and today two of hers and the one she gave to her Oma and Opa (grandparents) lay a greenish-colored shelled egg, which indicate the rooster involved is probably, at least in part, of the Americauna or Aracauna breed.
“I honestly think if a school can do it (the hatching project) they should. Everyone (students) was excited; everyone wanted to help,” she said.
It was probably the best learning situation for the year, Tana concluded.