Clallam County third graders are peeping with excitement as the chicks they have cared for are about to hatch.
 
Chicks in the Classroom, a program that teaches third graders important lessons on health and safety, took place in elementary school classrooms throughout the county for the past month.
 
(In a fourth-grade class, JJ draws a picture of the feathers on Red, a seabright bantam hen. Photos courtesy of Gena Royal)
 
“The main purpose of the program is to give students the opportunity to see embryology, to learn about the biology of it all and to also teach them about salmonella and disease control,” said Gena Royal, WSU Extension Clallam County 4-H program coordinator.
 
The program began years ago when an elementary school teacher contacted the extension office. “Once we did it in one class, it kind of spread like wildfire,” Royal said.
 
Royal brings eggs from a local farm into classrooms in April and has the students help her care for them until they hatch. The students maintain the incubator and complete other necessary chores.
 
Royal visits once a week to check on the progress of each classroom’s eggs by “candling” them. That is, she takes the eggs into a dark room and holds a flashlight up to them in order to see each chick’s development inside.
 
“Toward the end of the program you can see the chick move inside the shell, which the kids love,” she said.
 
(Third-grader Jenny got to be a ‘holder’ more often than some of the other students because she was so good about remembering to wash her hands with soap and water after holding the chicks)
 
She explains to them what they will see when the chick hatches as well as the difference between the eggs they have at home and the eggs that contain baby chicks.
 
“I want to make sure they know that the eggs they cook at home aren’t the same,” she said. “With no rooster at the farm for those eggs, there is no baby chick inside.”
 
Students enjoy the program, as does Royal. “It’s really a fun program,” she said.