The countdown has started on when the living eggs will hatch in Deb Bergmann’s room at Genoa Middle School — a process all Westerville teachers and students can watch through a 24-hour livestream on the incubated eggs.
Classrooms across the district have hosted chick and egg projects for years, giving students an opportunity to investigate the life cycle of an embryonic chicken egg. Those projects were halted last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic and it was unclear whether they would resume this year as the chemicals used to combat the coronavirus would be deadly for the chicks and possibly prevent the eggs from hatching.
Through the livestream, Bergmann, an ESL paraprofessional at Genoa, and Kim Buzard, a special education teacher at Westerville Central High School, are bringing the popular project back to classrooms virtually. They created a Schoology course available to any teacher that includes resources for all grade levels, curriculum guides, daily reports on the eggs and links to other projects.
“We’re happy to help,” Buzard said. “Whatever teachers need, we will figure it out.”
Bergmann and Buzard, both of whom are advisors for the 4-Hawks 4-H clubs at their respective buildings, proposed the concept in January after thinking of ways to engage students virtually.
Bergmann, who has worked with teachers on bringing chicks and brooding them in their classrooms, has seen the impact of these projects on students. She recalls working with a student struggling with reading who calmed down when he had a chick in his hand.
“He loved chicks so much he would do anything to keep it,” she said. “And he’s a whisperer because the chicks would fall asleep in his hand.”
The project inspired him to read books about chicks. He later participated in a summer 4-H program to further explore his interest.
“These projects, they sound like fun things but is that going to be their light, is that going to be their spark, is that going to be their saving point for the school year?” Buzard said.
The two were able to house the living eggs in Bergmann’s room after explaining the project to Genoa Principal Scott Gaddis and working with the custodial staff on keeping the enclosed space safe and clean when she works with students.
Genoa’s PTA purchased the webcam and they worked with one of the district’s educational technology coordinators, Drew Farrell, on creating the livestream. The Delaware County Office of the Ohio State University Extension program provided materials and equipment such as the incubator and egg turner and three farms have loaned supplies to brood the chicks.
Bergmann is tending to the eggs, cataloging the changes in their mass and keeping a diary on their progress while Buzard manages the Schoology course and works with teachers interested in applying the project in their classroom.
The eggs are expected to hatch on April 27, after the state testing window closes for schools. The timing was not a coincidence.
“We needed something after (state testing) as a district… something for us to go that is interesting,” Buzard said.
The livestream will remain through the end of the year so teachers and students can watch and engage with the chicks, which are scheduled to go to a farm on May 24.
Bergmann and Buzard plan to build on their work from this year by going through educator training for ChickQuest, a Science Alive 4-H School Enrichment program from the Delaware County Office of the Ohio State University Extension program. Following the training, they both will receive incubators to bring the chick hatch lessons to students.
“Now that we have the foundations laid, there are other opportunities to utilize this technology across the district,” Buzard said.