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Extension agents take embryology to third graders
By JANE W. GRAHAM
FAIRLAWN, Va. (May 31, 2016) — Third graders at Riverlawn Elementary School and in three other Pulaski County, Va., schools recently completed the 4-H Embryology Project that is designed to give them an understanding of life and embryonic development.
Some 100 eggs entered classrooms on April 19, and left with students on May 20.
“The chicks are headed to different homes in the county to be raised as layers,” said Morgan Paulette, the county’s Extension ag agent. “Hatching out of their shell to a room full of third grade spectators is not the typical experience for most chicks, but it is becoming that way in Pulaski County.”
The project started in one school two years ago by Chris Lichty, Extension 4-H Agent. It has since grown to four schools with 11 classrooms involved, Paulette said.
“This project is designed to help students obtain a better understanding of the processes of life and embryonic development as well as basics of poultry and food production,” Paulette stated. “Eggs are incubated for three weeks in the classrooms while students monitor changes and development in the embryo.”
The agents and teachers collaborate to provide lessons for students throughout the process by candling the eggs with students and discussing the egg and embryo.
Prior to introducing the students to the project, the agents sent a letter to parents of the third graders explaining the project and why eggs are used.
“The bird egg is an excellent educational subject for the study of embryology,” the agents said. “First, unlike most animals, the embryonic development of the birds takes place within the egg and outside of the body of the female. Second, the egg is small and readily available. Third, the incubation period is short enough to maintain the interest of even the youngest students.”
The agents said the project teaches responsibility, respect for life and the value of living things, gives kids a hands-on experience with living things and introduces them to scientific processes and other areas of science.
Even as the agents and students at Riverlawn were transferring chicks from their school home to boxes to take them to their new homes, Litchty was kneeling beside them, continuing to teach.
He was showing the children and adults how to tell males from females and the different wings developing on the growing chicks.
“Teaching and interacting with students is a real joy, watching as the kids’ interest and excitement grows with their comprehension of basic scientific principles,” Lichty said. “Chicken embryos develop at a very fast rate, fascinating the students as they watch life begin right there in their classroom. We hope to see the project continue to grow and reach more youth in Pulaski County.”