Hatching new ideas - Skyline students have fun with baby chicks and ducks in the classroom

Jennifer Stultz
Pratt Tribune
Skyline vet science class members (from left) Halle Young, Kambrey Moreland and Kyanna Davidson share their enjoyment of caring for baby Cayuga ducks, hatched out in their classroom this spring. The students feed, water and clean cages every day.

More photos from Skyline poultry class:Hatching new ideas at Skyline Schools

A group of 10 sophomore vet science class members have a special project going on in the Skyline agricultural classroom that has captured school-wide interest. Since mid-April, approximately 40 chicks and 12 ducklings have hatched under watchful eyes, and along with the poultry, new ideas and opportunities are growing under the supervision of Ag instructor Anita DeWeese.

"A day after the first chicks started hatching we had six elementary classes come back to see what was going on," DeWeese said. "Since then teachers will call back and ask if their students may come back to spend time with the chicks."

The sophomore class is responsible for the feed and care, and hatching, of the poultry, and most agree there isn't a place they would rather be than in their Ag classroom, spending time with their new fuzzy friends.

"It's such a relief to come here to help with the chicks and the ducks," said Halle Young. "I just feel better here and it's my favorite place to be."

Classmate Kyanna Davidson said she looked forward to her vet science class because coming back to the Ag classroom was just a better environment than other places.

"Our ideas are welcome here," she said. "We can turn ideas into reality and learn useful things."

The Monday, Wednesday, Friday class meets for 50 minutes, while on Tuesday they get 90 minutes to learn about and care for their little friends.

DeWeese said the poultry project wasn't new, last year some students were able to take small incubators home during the COVID-10 closures and hatch out chicks on their own (those chickens are  out back in a pen accessible to all ages at recess). However, this year the experience of connecting with each other and the baby birds was creating special bonds between students.

"I hear about how our students are talking with each other more outside of the classroom about their projects," DeWeese said. "Conversations are happing across class levels as everyone wants to know how the chicks and ducks are doing."

During vet science class time, each student often has a chick or duck on their shoulder or cuddled to their chest while working on other classroom work.

"It's kind of like therapy," said MaKenna Moreland. "I feel good, these chicks are inspiring. I'm thinking about raising exotic birds of some sort after this."

Young said she was creating a business plan to raise and sell pheasants and quail because of the inspiration she gained in the Skyline classroom. There are currently batches of quail eggs from Murdock and specially-ordered blue pheasants in the automatic incubators.

DeWeese said the benefits of raising poultry in a classroom included gaining responsibility, record keeping and realizing the importance of consistent care. Offshoots from those lessons include learning to research agriculture issues, forming business plans and seeing connections between animals and gardening projects.

"We have a compost tote for the first time this year that we can utilize what we clean up each day. We will turn that into usable fertilizer for our school garden next year," DeWeese said. "This class kind of just ties it all together."

Experiences of helping chicks hatch out of their shells, raising a deformed duck and helping it grow stronger and journaling the growth progress have made an impact that won't be forgotten for the 10 vet science classmates this year. Most likely some of the Skyline poultry will be exhibited at the Pratt County Fair in July as students plan to continue to divide up the responsibilities and care duties that come with raising poultry, even after the school days of this semester wind down for summer break.