Real-life learning with chicks

Matthew Hanson, left, who arranged filming once the hatching started, with Genevieve Silva. Photo provided
Matthew Hanson, left, who arranged filming once the hatching started, with Genevieve Silva. Photo provided

Calls of “the chickens are hatching, the chickens are hatching” filled the halls at Pine Knob Elementary when the weeks-long Fresh Start project funded by the Clarkston Farm and Garden Club cracked open with the birth of baby chicks in the Special Ed classroom lab.
One of the 67 participating students assembled a live action camera to film the hatching chicks. The clip was shared with other students to keep quiet in the lab that housed the incubator, but give everyone an opportunity to see the action.
The Fresh Start Hatchery program included students at Pine Knob Elementary incubating eggs and hatching chicks. The hands-on, real-life experience gave students the opportunity to experience nature in action and learn about science.
The 2-in-1 project was developed by Leanna Mazich, K-5 school social worker at Pine Knob Elementary, with help from five additional staffers. It included nutrition, gardening, cooking, budgeting and shopping.
In addition to the process of raising chickens for eggs, students have planted and grown greens, started a breakfast club, and shared their new knowledge with the other 500 students at the elementary.
“The main goal of the Fresh Start program is to develop, grow and foster necessary academic and life skills into students’ lives,” said Mazich. “We want to expose students to activities which they might not otherwise have the opportunity to enjoy.”
The focus is on building and maintaining relationships and connections between the students, teachers, volunteers and community members, she said.
“By teaching students these imperative skills we are providing them with the necessary tools to be independent and successful in the everyday aspects of their life,” she said. “This is a great hands on experience where students not only learn a lifelong skill, how to cook, but several other skills involving many different academic areas including reading fluency and comprehension, budgeting, measurement, nutrition, and more.”
A result of the project has been the decrease in disciplinary referrals and negative behavior by participating students and an increase in students’ school attendance, according to school staff.
“The joy that I have already seen in the students when they are cooking, checking on the eggs, or planting seeds is amazing,” Mazich said. “I love to know that we are instilling a love of learning and teaching the students valuable life skills and lessons.”
Other participating staff members are Sue Hooks, Allison Facciolla, Stephanie Joseph, Alexa Maciejewski and Janet Green.
Clarkston Farm and Garden Club awarded the school a grant from its Environmental Education Mini-Grant program, which has funded nearly $20,000 in school projects.
– Susan Sajdak

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