Since 2013, The Livestock Conservancy has partnered with small farms to provide rare heritage breed hatching eggs to elementary schools through the Classroom Heritage Chicken Hatching Project. This partnership provides youth an opportunity to learn about life cycles, heritage breeds, and genetic conservation. Teachers use a 4-H curriculum to guide students through the incubation process and embryonic life cycle. Materials provided by The Livestock Conservancy help students learn about the role of heritage breeds in biodiversity and on today’s farms, backyards, and ranches.
Classrooms and home schoolers can also use a virtual learning experience to augment their lesson plans. These videos were developed by The Livestock Conservancy and Chatham County 4-H, a program of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service.
A typical program schedule contains:
Over a four-week period, participants learn about how to take care of chicks, and fun facts for when chicks become chickens.
The Classroom Heritage Chick Hatching Project makes measurable impact on students and learning. A survey in one school system found that, at the completion of the program, 94% of students demonstrated a greater interest in science. These children also expressed an interest in pursuing a science or agriculture-related career in the future. More than 80% of students also showed marked improvements in science grades and assessments. Teachers also report classrooms have fewer student absences when eggs are being incubated and chicks are living in the classroom.
At the end of the classroom experience, chicks return to the farms that provided the eggs. Closing the life-cycle loop allows the chicks to help expand their farmers’ flocks. Sometimes, classroom-hatched chicks are placed with new farmers to start new flocks! In these ways the project serves as a citizen science initiative contributing to conservation and biodiversity in communities across America.
For questions about this program, finding heritage breed eggs for a classroom, or The Livestock Conservancy, please contact Jeannette Beranger. While the curriculum is designed for chickens, heritage breed duck, goose, and turkey eggs have also been successfully hatched in classroom incubators.