LEADelaware working to expand school program
DOVER, Del. — LEADelaware Class V fellows and University of Delaware Extension staff are collaborating to bring a poultry embryology program popular in Kent and New Castle counties to Sussex county, the heart of the state’s poultry industry.
The embryology program has been a staple of Delaware 4-H outreach in Kent and New Castle counties for more than decade, engaging youth in elementary schools, churches and early learning centers to increase an appreciation of science and learn about life cycles. In 2018, 285 classrooms participated reaching 6,591 students. There were 329 teachers and volunteers assisting the program. From 2016 to 2018, the total reach was 16,850 students.
In discussion of creating a group project that could further promote Delaware agriculture, and meeting with Extension Poultry Agent Georgie Cartanza and Jill Jackson, Extension 4-H agent in Sussex County, the LEAD class decided to work to bring the program to Sussex County.
“We really try to use the embryology program to introduce the idea of animals and animal agriculture,” said Kristin Cook, a Class V member and Extension 4-H agent in Kent County. “It sounded like a perfect opportunity to pull people together and launch the program.”
Cook said along with a foray into animal science, teachers use the program to teach a variety of life skills with application beyond agriculture.
During the week-long program, teachers use the opportunity of hatching chicks in the classroom to teach lessons in math, science, reading and writing. Students are able to count and graph numbers and colors of eggs, make pie charts to illustrate hatching, write about the chicks in their journals, and read age-appropriate stories about chicks. Youth learn about the responsibilities of caring for other living organisms, and are able to hold the new chicks while learning the proper handling and care.
Cook said teachers also have included lessons in responsibility, understanding diversity and dealing with adversity.
“There’s a whole gamut of topics that teachers cover,” Cook said. “We just think there’s this benefit of the program as a life skill development tool.”
Cartanza said expanding the program can create another way to engage students and teachers about the poultry industry, which, even though it surrounds them, they may not have a direct connection. Most of her opportunities to talk with students have revolved around science day and career day events.
“This, to me, is another avenue to make that connection,” she said. “For us to maintain the sustainability of our industry, we have to step up to those conversations.”
The LEAD class is taking on fundraising duties in expanding the program, with a goal of $3,000 to secure to provide six incubators and other equipment; including bulbs, thermometers, brooding bins, heat lamps, feed, feeders, waterers and litter.
“With this initial investment, it is estimated that 1,200 students in Sussex County will receive the Embryology Program annually, with the potential for growth in future years. Participating classrooms will be asked to contribute a nominal fee to allow the program to be sustainable going forward,” the class wrote in a letter to potential donors.
The LEADelaware class expects to wrap up fundraising this fall and start purchasing equipment and supplies to be able to send kits to schools and learning centers in the spring.
For more information on the program, contact Cook at 302-730-4000 or email@example.com.
Participation in the program is primarily kindergarten through third grade.
Delaware’s 4-H offices schedule locations during the spring each year to implement the program. Equipment is delivered to each location, the week prior to the eggs arriving, which includes embryology kits for each classroom.
One kit includes all the necessary supplies; an incubator, a dozen 18-day fertilized eggs from the University of Delaware’s hatchery, a heat lamp, a brooder box, feed and water bowls, bedding and feed.
On Monday of the scheduled week, the eggs are dropped off to the location, and begin hatching Tuesday into Wednesday of that week.
This allows students to observe the hatching process and spend time with the chicks.
At the conclusion of the program, the equipment is picked up from the location.
Cook said after the week’s end, more families and teachers are choosing to take chicks home, furthering the learning.
As laying hens, chicks sent to schools that don’t offer them to families are placed on nearby farms or sold at a local auction.
“We’ve had relatively no trouble rehoming them to families and teachers,” Cook said.
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