May Chicks in the School Garden

Students at Clay Elementary were excited to spend time watching over baby chicks this week – and learning about life cycles as they did so.

Discovering Life Cycles

Spring in the school garden means new growth and discoveries! While the students are busy noticing changes in the garden, special visitors have arrived at Clay Elementary to teach the students about life cycles. Gateway Greening partners with University of Missouri Extension, Jefferson County, to provide chicken eggs and incubators to the Clay Elementary preschool, kindergarten, and second grade classrooms.


Incubating Chicks in the Classroom

During the first week the incubators were kept in the classroom, where students expectantly monitored and turned the eggs three times a day. They observed that the incubators kept the chicken eggs at a toasty 98 degrees and watched videos to learn how the embryo changes inside of the egg. The kindergarteners even learned that the yolk sac gives the embryo nourishment to grow, just like the seed provides food for a plant embryo in the garden.

Student at Clay Elementary carefully holding a newly hatched chick – part of a hands-on lesson in life cycles.

The following monday, real excitement began in the incubators! The second graders’ chicks were ambitious, with one chick fully hatching before the students arrived at school. Throughout the day the second grade’s eggs continued to hatch until they had ten cheeping chicks. The preschoolers and kindergarteners were disappointed. No chicks had hatched in their classrooms, not even a crack had appeared.

The next day, the preschoolers and kindergarteners nervously checked their eggs – and cracks had started on a few of the eggs! The egg tooth, the part of the beak that helps a chick break open its egg, was even visible in a few of the cracks. Throughout the day, the preschoolers and kindergarteners observed as more eggs cracked and chicks appeared. They were worried when the chicks looked wet and sticky, but under the warm incubator lights the chicks quickly dried out until they were fluffy and yellow.

When the chicks fully dried out, they were carefully moved into a bigger box while the students eagerly monitored the chicks and listened to their “cheeps” to figure out if they were content in their new home. Finally, the students learned how to gently and safely handle the chicks. Happily, the chicks were as soft as they looked!


What happens next?

In the coming week, Clay Elementary students will observe how the chicks rapidly grow. The second graders are measuring and weighing the chicks, and the kindergarteners and preschoolers are studying what chicks need to survive. Before the end of the school year, full grown chickens will visit, so students can see just how much chickens change over their life cycle.

Written by Lucy Herleth, Gateway Greening Youth Educator

Looking for more ways to incorporate the school garden into your lesson plan? Stop by:

  • Gateway Greening’s Workshops for Educators page to explore monthly workshops that address the challenges and opportunities represented by teaching in school gardens
  • The Gateway Greening Educators Facebook group to connect with other teachers throughout St. Louis with similar interests in school gardens
  • Check out our In the School Garden Youtube playlist for short, actionable how-to videos that are seasonally relevant.