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For peep's sake; Students learn about life cycle by hatching eggs

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By Greg Summers

It’s been much louder in the second grade classrooms at Buford Elementary School this week. Teachers Jackie Anthony, Tara Broome, Terry Cauthen, Julie Craig, Buffy Eason, Deborah Elliott and Lee Anne Robinson are having trouble keeping these rowdy, rambunctious noisemakers in line, too.No, it’s not students anxious for Easter break who are causing the ruckus. The incessant chirping comes from incubators as chicks in their classrooms hatch.But they aren’t alone; the same sounds are ringing out from the science wing at Buford High School and the science lab at North Elementary School.“They’re paying us back for all the noise we made while they were in their shells. From all the peeping, I think this experiment has been a success.” Elliott said, laughing. “They get really loud,” said second-grader Lanie O’Neal. “They’ve been peep, peep, peeping all morning.”County 4-H Agent Ashley Hinson has been working with the three schools on the hands-on science project, which was jointly funded by Clemson Extension Service and Lancaster County. Hinson said Indian Land area students will raise chickens later this year.The eggs – donated by local producers Rick and Jeanette Howie, Bobby Raefield and Todd Sanders – were placed in the classrooms on Feb. 27.Since then, Hinson has made powerpoint presentations to the classrooms and “candled” the eggs for them. Candling the eggs with a flashlight allows students to track the embryonic development of each egg.“You can see their heartbeat, its little eye and the air cell inside the egg,” said Tyreek Adams, 7.Hinson said it was hard not to be pleased with the enthusiasm the incubator project has generated.“I love to hear them talk about it now because it shows they’ve really listened,” Hinson said. “They now know there’s a lot more to it than a yolk and a shell.” By 9 a.m. Wednesday, 11 eggs in Craig’s room had hatched.Craig’s students have been keeping a journal to track the growth of the eggs. By March 12, Craig said the embryos were really starting to fill out, and true to form, they started hatching late Monday.“It takes 20 days for them to hatch and Tuesday was the 20th day,” said BHS science teacher Russ Haselden. “We just studied avians in Biology II, which is a coincidence in itself, when you think about.” Students there were greeted Tuesday morning by the sounds of peeps and several new sets of eyes. “The kids were so excited when they started hatching,” Cauthen said. “They kept saying, ‘They’re chirping, they’re chirping.’ ”Cauthen said seeing chicks hatch gave her students a new opportunity.“It brings more life to what you’re talking about to them,” she said. “Even though they are out in a rural area, some of them have not had a chance to experience the life cycle like this firsthand.”However, that wasn’t the case for Breana Gritzback.“Chicks are hatching at our house right now and our mama horse is staying around them to keep them safe,” Breanna said. “Some eggs come from farms, but they come from the wild, too.”The chicks left their respective schools on Thursday, right along with the students, some of whom took them home as pets, Haselden said.“The juniors and seniors got just as excited as the young kids did,” Haselden said. “They even gave some of the chicks names.”North Elementary School science teacher Kim Threatt said most of chicks there are headed for farms with two teachers. However, two of them will be kept at the school as pets, once a pen is built for them.“Most of our kids got to see them,” Threatt said. “The chicks have really had a busy week and are making the rounds. Some of the kids want to come by here and even eat lunch with them.“You know, we had chicken rings for lunch Monday, chicken noodles Tuesday and chicken fajitas on Wednesday,” Threatt said, laughing. “How wrong is that?” For some reason, Elliott’s Buford Elementary School classroom has turned into a temporary “Chicken Central.”Some of the teachers are afraid of them, so they move the chicks to Elliott room about 24 hours after making it out of their shells and drying. The chicks are then kept in a large box lined with old newspapers and wood chips until they can be picked up.Robinson and Broome both admit to being wary of these future hens and roosters.“I didn’t mind keeping up with everything, I just didn’t want to touch them,” Broome said, laughing.As far as the timing goes – hatching just before Easter – Hinson said none of that was planned.“To be honest, we didn’t even realize it until it happened,” she said. “There were two good times to do this and this just happened to be one of them.”