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Students can see the stages as the embryos grow into fully-developed birds.
The students charted the eggs daily to make sure they were thriving. If one loses too much weight, that means the conditions aren’t humid enough. If the temperature is too cold, the eggs won’t develop; too hot and they’ll start to cook. The children learn the ideal conditions and adjust the environment.
They had about week before the quarantine interrupted the hands-on learning. But Dannelly keeps up the lessons and provides periodic updates on the care and feeding of the chicks by way of the internet. She’s used her experience as a former zookeeper to show students how to be keeper-trainers.
“This is a very multifaceted class,” she said. “There’s a lot of math involved and students sharpen their observation skills. Besides learning about caring for animals, students get to see up close that the food chain doesn’t begin at the grocery store.”
Although the children aren’t present, Dannelly is giving them almost daily updates on their chicks’ progress through video and pictures. Another teacher had been taking the chicks home each night, but now they are old enough to be living at the barnyard round the clock.
Dannelly is also posting animal training session videos, showing the force-free method she learned as a zookeeper. Not forcing their participation allows for a more stress-free relationship with the animals, even farm animals. Dannelly has trained a horse to paint on a canvas, a pot-bellied pig to run an obstacle course, and chickens to jump through a hoop. It’s been a great learning tool for the younger students (up to 5th grade), she said.
“As a progressive school, we focus on inquiry-driven instruction where students learn by doing and asking,” said Laura Nicholson, High Meadows’ director of admission and enrollment. “It’s more labor-intensive for teachers, but the lessons aren’t divided by isolated subjects like math and reading. Instead of a half-hour of science a day, the student may have a six-week course on DNA that encompasses math equations, vocabulary, etc.
“We’re on 42 acres and incorporate a farm environment with gardening, ponies, composting, etc.” she said.“Besides being a beautiful setting, it teaches lots of life lessons.”