Monday, April 25, 2016

Welcome All Eggs

Samuel designed this sign as we anticipated the arrival of our twelve eggs. 
It definitely strikes  an official tone and exudes inclusiveness. 
The excitement was palpable and more children wrote their good wishes on signs and posters. 

We adopted 12 chick eggs and are learning to care for them. We spend time each day making decisions for our eggs and considering the questions that occur for us.

Once the eggs were comfortably sitting in the incubator, we sat to discuss the responsibility that the eggs generate.

Anna: We need some way to take the temperature and make sure that it the environment is good for the eggs.  

Kate: On the weekends the Mary’s can come in and check on the eggs then during the school day we could all check on them.

Cal: Yeah, but we will all want to do it.

Scarlet: The teacher could tell someone who knows how to check the temperature. Cause I certainly don't know how to.

We learned that on average each egg takes twenty one days to hatch. We thought we needed a way to keep track of each passing day. 

Kate: We could make a list and then we could write when we were done with one day we could check it off.

Cal: We make a 20 day chain and once the paper chains are gone then we know it is time for the chicks to come.

Julia volunteered to make a paper chain. Caroline explained that she had used a paper chain to anticipate the start of school. 

Penelope:We could use a calendar but we need a separate calendar (referring to a way to keep track of birthdays).

Syd: The calendar could have a picture of an egg and you could egg off each day.

This calendar  became even more  important when we considered that we would need to note each chick's birthday and  keep track of who hatched on what day.  

Julia: I have a question. Who will take care of the eggs on Sunday and Saturday?

This conversation had bubbled up before and was beginning to weigh heavy. We explained that we purchased a swanky incubator that turned the eggs and managed the humidity and temperature. 

This brought up the discussion of humidity and temperature. 

Samuel: Humidity is like the dew on the grass.

Bryce: There is water in the air. This launched us into thinking about fog and hot summer days. 

Temperature is a familiar term as we often refer to it when we discuss dressing for recess or PE. It is definitely an authentic part of the lives of the children. As a number, temperature may only carry meaning  in its relationship to other temperatures. For example, the incubator must stand at 100 degrees which is hot in comparison to the early morning temperature of sixty.

We also discuss that this level of responsibility, science and meticulousness demands organization and structure. Cal felt the need for rules and a form that would log the completion of temperature, humidity, the number of eggs present. 

Each day,  the children check the incubator several times to make sure that the temperature and humitidty is within the normal range. They count the eggs and watch the eggs slowly rock. This daily habit promotes a beginning understanding of the importance of collecting data as a scientist.

We were finding that our questions were bringing even more questions and sometimes less answers and deeper confusion.

Cal: What will happen if we look at a chick when it first hatches and it sees us. Will  the chick think,  "Hey, I'm  your my mom".   Maybe we should wear a mask.

Syd thought it should be a chicken costume so the chicks would not be confused.

As a teacher, this thinking never ceases to amaze me. It is the great mysteries of our life that are often recognized and debated in the kindergarten. Will the young chicks see the face of a young child  first and then imprint on these faces? 

What's amazing is that researchers have discovered that young birds imprint themselves to the first moving thing they set their eyes on - even if they are inanimate objects. During their study, they found young chicks attaching themselves to gumboots, balls, and even an electric train.
The downside of imprinting is that young animals have a hard time detaching themselves from their adopted 'mother'. That means that they are often unable to return to the wild or socialize with their own species. This is the reason researchers use innovative methods when raising animals in captive breeding programs. At California and Arizona'sCondor Recovery Project, the caretakers use hand puppets shaped like condors to raise the chicks, while researchers at the Hetaoping Research and Conservation Center in Western China dress in Panda suits to raise the criticallyendangered animals in captivity.
This excerpt is from a publication called Dogonews. 

Every living thing needs a name. The Kindergartners made a list of possible names but the prospect of naming twelve chicks generated more debate. 

Bryce: How will we remember all of their names if they look alike?

Annabel: When will we they know to follow? When we call them their name?

Scarlett: Like when you call a puppy they hear their name and then they say,  "Oh, I guess that is my name and then they will follow us". 

How does an animal register a name as belonging to them? 

Avery: We could put paper collars on them.

Zoey: Lets have a birthday circle for them and then tell them their name.

Scarlett is actually correct in some of her thinking regarding animals responding to their name. 

The classical view is that animals learn their names through classical conditioning, viz., what they learn is to *respond* to the name, not recognize themselves as such. Positive reinforcements such as cuddles and treats teaches the animal come to the owner whenever they hear their name. Similarly, the animal learns that if it is in a situation that the owner did not like in the past (e.g., trying to steal food left on the kitchen stove or opening the dustbin), it runs away as soon as it hears its name since the past conjoining of name + bad situation was negatively enforced.
The problem with this view is that recent work has shown that animal (in particular dog and parrot - not much work on cats because they are notably uncooperative in experimental settings) language learning skills are far more sophisticated. Dogs, for instance, can fast map new words for unfamiliar objects. They do this by reasoning by exclusion: if asked "fetch the dinosaur" and presented with a heap of objects, one of which does not correspond to a word the animal knows, the dog will take the dinosaur and remember this word for months to come.
Also, animals have sophisticated conceptual understanding - more sophisticated than classical behaviorism + conditioning has it. Moreover, animals such as chimps, dolphins and even sea lions have shown capacities to learn to map symbols to concepts. Bottlenose dolphins in the wild have signature whistles to denote each other.
So if a dog can learn the word "ball" by fast mapping a linguistic expression to a concept, why would the dog not similarly learn to fast map his name to himself? Typically (this is anecdotical), dogs learn their names really quickly, and at any rate our cat learned his name within a few days. We tried operant conditioning to teach him other simple things and that took months and months.
However, the problem with this richer interpretation is that animals do not seem to have a concept of self, with perhaps the exception of corvids, elephants, great apes and dolphins and whales. They do not recognize themselves in the mirror, which is seen as a standard test for self-awareness

The children thought we could create beds for each chick with their name on it. This would give them a place to sleep and an opportunity to reinforce their names. They also felt strongly that we need to make a large stuffed Mama chicken and place that in the brooder. So they feel secure and loved.

Syd: There should be stuff inside the brooder so they can play  like a miniature playground.

Annabel: We need a little bowl with water and marbles. The marbles make sure that they don’t drown.

Later Kenny drew a water bottle and labeled it step 11 for caring for the chicks.

Scarlett: What do chicks eat? We are going to need to know this. 

Charlie: We need to get in the brooder with the chicks.
Avery: A cardboard bed with a little pillow would work.
Bryce: Yeah how about a bunk bed.
Zach: Maybe they need an elevator because they will not be able to walk up the stairs.
Cal: This is with Zach. We cannot have an elevator. We could have a pulley and pull them up.

Charlie: The top of the brooder would need to be air and no water.

Pippin shared with the class that the chicks need to stay warm and love to have something soft to walk on.

Charlie: How about hay? 
Caroline: This is about how they can keep warm. Like when the first one is hatched they could help the others by cuddling like cheetah moms.
Zach: In my bird cage, I had a cage part and then the bottom had this little thing and tiny wincy holes so you could clean the cage.

Anna mentioned that at the state fair she saw a a short little slide that the chicks were able to  play  with but she also asked the children to maintain their empathetic stance with the chicks. 

Anna: Do the chicks want to actually sleep in beds? We have to think like a chicken. 

After much discussion regarding a wooden brooder,  Pippin asked the children to consider how they would we the chicks if they were inside a wooden brooder. 

Kate: There could be a little circle up on top so we could see if anything is wrong with the chicks.

Eve: My chicken house is made out of plastic with little doors so we could help them with stuff if then need help.

Shayna: There would spaces between the wood with glass so we could see.

Each day we wait and each day we become more excited to see these little babies. We want them to feel welcomed, safe and loved. We hope they have a great life.


  1. I love getting daily egg updates. This experience has been wonderful.

  2. The research you share on imprinting is fascinating! Thanks for bringing this crazy chick idea to school!

  3. The research you share on imprinting is fascinating! Thanks for bringing this crazy chick idea to school!

  4. love the details you see and share and reflect about and with the children. I can't imagine how deep this study and knowledge goes with so many perspectives you offer them. I think about a metacognition theorist that talked about how reviewing and reviewing the info over and over in different ways even if saying it to different people, this is how we truly learn.