Students at the Princeton Montessori School learned about the lifecycle of an embryo through a unique hands-on experience with chicken eggs.
From the month of April as the eggs developed in an incubator students ranging from toddlers to middle schoolers were able to learn, observe and witness the development of baby chicks.
“We rented the fertilized eggs, incubator and heated enclosure called a brooder from this company called Rent-a-Chick. They brought the fertilized eggs that had been laid,” explained Eliza Hammer, a Princeton Montessori School biology teacher. “We had about 21 days with the eggs in the incubator to watch the embryo grow. We were able to candle them and look inside the egg to see the embryo. We had three weeks of that and then the chicks hatched.”
She reported that the school had the chicks for two weeks after they hatched.
“The whole project was about five weeks. We chose to get the eggs on April 2. The reason we did it at that time was because we did not want it to interfere with our Easter break or Spring break,” Hammer said. “We wanted to be here when the eggs hatched.”
The chick hatching project was a three-four pronged approach by Hammer.
“I teach biology to the second grade and teach ecology, which is the relation of organisms to their physical surroundings, to third, fourth and fifth graders. I also do after school through elementary and middle school,” she explained. “I am always looking for projects the whole school can be involved in. It is nice to see the children share similar experiences.”
The Princeton Montessori School goes from pre-kindergarten to eighth grade and is located at 487 Cherry Valley Road in Princeton.
“This year for biology at the school we are doing evolutionary biology and I wanted the project to coincide with evolution of reptiles and birds,” Hammer said. “I got very lucky because we had moved through our timeline with the chicken egg embryos hatching with the first and second grade.”
She said for her ecology classes, they were learning about the bald eagles at Duke Farms in Hillsborough.
“We were doing a unit on the bald eagle. We watched their eggs hatch at Duke Farms and that began the students interest again. So the chicken hatching project also coincided with that as well,” Hammer said.
The project ended up being a project academically that worked across the school, according to school officials.
“The more real you make learning the more of an impact you make on a child. That is what the Montessori School is all about,” Hammer explained. “If students are studying an egg have an egg, if you are studying a chicken get a real chicken, if you are studying a fish get a fish even if it is from a store, so the children can feel the skin. As a teacher here I am very motivated to make what ever that extra effort is and make the experience as real as I can.”
She revealed that with the chick hatching project, she wanted the toddlers to experience the chicks hatching, the elementary children to understand the development of the embryo inside the egg go from nothing to life, and for her ecology students she wanted to make the process of life real.
“This project was so successful that I think we will do this annually. We would have this be in the spring and be a life returning to the earth lesson for the students in the school,” Hammer said.