Primary teacher Maria Mosby hatches a great idea for a class project!
The New Century School‘s primary Montessori program is truly special, inspiring children to be self-directed and independent yet truly community-minded individuals through hands-on engagement with their world.
Primary teacher Maria Mosby has recently taken this concept to the next level by “renting a coop”! Her students have been participating in a chick-raising and egg-hatching program, all designed to “hatch ideas, grow compassion, and lay foundations,” according to Rent a Coop‘s tagline. Owned by Tyler Phillips and Diana Samata of nearby Potomac, MD, the company rents chicken coops and chicks to homes and schools in Maryland, D.C., and Virginia to “provide an educational and fun experience, bring families and communities closer together, and to help others become more self-sustainable and get back in touch with nature!”
Ms. Mosby said of the idea for her initiative, “Señora Salas and I had been talking to the children about where things come from as well as doing a lot of food preparation work (including egg slicing). So I wanted to do a bird unit and let them actually see and participate in the raising of these chicks so they could understand where our eggs come from. We had to talk about the difference between the eggs we eat and the eggs that are fertilized with potential chicks inside of course!” Eggzactly!
At some point, most other TNCS classes dropped by for a peck. Make that peek.
On the verge of hatching—so eggciting!
She has been very happy with the company and their responsiveness. “It has been a wonderful program. [Mr. Phillips and Ms. Samata] are on call and answered my emergency chick and egg questions right away,” said Ms. Mosby.
It all began back in April when two chicks appeared in Ms. Mosby’s classroom, which the children subsequently named Olive and Miamaura Cadenza, along with a half dozen or so fertile eggs. One of the chicks was a male Bielefelder breed, and the other an Easter Egger/Copper Maran mix, whose sex was indeterminate until it started “either crowing or laying eggs,” according to Mr. Phillips. [Fun fact: the Bielefelder breed (as well as the Golden Comet, which is what most of their hens are) are 2 of only 10 breeds out of 300 in which the sex can be determined in a chick.] The students voted from a list of names to come up with their final picks. “I think that Miamaura Cadenza is from ‘My Little Pony,'” said Ms. Mosby. “Olive, the male, stems from our class name, ‘The Olive Tree Class.'”
The students got to watch the chicks grow for 21 days inside the egg and for 7 days outside the egg to develop an understanding of emerging and then early life, from “egg tooth” to first feathers. Meanwhile, they also enjoyed observing Olive and Miamaura grow and change. Wait—inside the egg? “They are fascinated when we candle the eggs and what we’ve been learning about in books about the growth of the chick embryo comes to life,” said Ms. Mosby. “Candling” involves a special light that reveals what is happening within the egg.
Inside the incubator!
This is happening!
Excitement is building!
Feeding in the brooder.
They’re getting bigger by the minute!
Mrs. DuPrau’s class pays a visit.
Last day with chicks . . .
Feathers are ruffled!
As luck would have it, three of the chicks hatched the night before Ms. Mosby’s beautiful Mother’s Day breakfast on May 8th, and the rest during that happy occasion! What more fitting celebration of parenting? Indeed, Ms. Mosby’s students developed some very nurturing ways as a result of this wonderful project. “My students have been really interested in doing individual projects about birds, and are so gentle, caring, and protective of the chicks,” she said. They named the new hatchlings “Peep,” “Foxy,” “Oreo,” “Thing One,” and “Thing Two.” Awwwwwww!
Let’s go with Peep.
This must be Oreo!
Many other TNCS classes stopped by to visit, and Mrs. DuPrau’s class even helped maintain the brooder, which is where the chicks live soon after hatching (after 24–48 hours in an incubator). The brooder features a heat lamp and water and feed bowls and chicks are added one at a time. Think of this as analogous to the Montessori mixed-age classroom, where the new “chicks” learn from the seasoned pros!
Enjoying Ms. Mosby’s backyard before returning to the coop.
After 4 weeks of this eggstraordinary program, the chicks returned to the Rent a Coop farm, as agreed in the terms of rental. Not surprisingly, the class really misses their chicks. “We just wrote a letter [yesterday] to send to Rent a Coop. The kids really miss the chicks and want to know how they’re doing,” said Ms. Mosby. “I’d love to do this again next year, if possible,” she continued. “I’d honestly love to keep one or two hens at school. What a great experience for the kids to care for them and get fresh, organic eggs every day!”
Wondering what the mystery chick turned out to be? “I do think Miamaura Cadenza is also male,” said Ms. Mosby, “because I heard a low sound similar to a crow toward the end!”