Hatching eggs with children is one of my favorite things to do. It takes some planning, a fair amount of knowledge, and special equipment, but it's really worth the effort. I've done this activity with children from preschool through fourth grade, in pretty much the same way with every different level.
Nowadays, with America's phobia of germs, there are some people who believe teachers who bring animals into their classrooms, let alone hatch eggs, should be fired. I think that's totally wrong on a number of levels:
- Our immune systems only develop as they are exposed to germs. The more germs we eliminate the weaker we become.
- It's easier than ever before to keep things clean and disinfected. Disinfecting wipes take care of the problem with little trouble.
- Hand sanitizers and vinyl gloves provide lots of protection.
- Children learn through observation and experience. Reading about a lifecycle is not the same as experiencing it.
- If we want children to respect and appreciate nature, to treat animals humanely, and conserve and protect resources, we must teach them to love the natural world, and to understand, respect, and care for it. That doesn't come from a book.
Here's a fact sheet from Penn State that explains the issues far better than I can! You may be able to print it out and send it home—I don't know for sure. There are contact numbers included on the form. I'll be checking it out in the near future, but it's good background information if you're considering an egg hatch in your classroom.
I have hatched butterfly eggs, silkworm eggs (very easy to do), frog and toad eggs, chicken eggs, duck eggs, and quail eggs. My favorite of all were the duck eggs. I had the best hatch rate with them, and they were so much fun to handle. But they were also the most work and the messiest little critters.
Whatever eggs you choose to hatch, you need to know what you are going to do with the live animals when you are finished with them—before you even start. Classroom raised animals can't be released into the wild—they've imprinted on people and don't know how to fend for themselves. We'll discuss this issue more in the coming days.
Over the next few weeks I'll be sharing my experiences, suggestions, and ideas for embryology and lifecycle studies. I hope you'll find it helpful, exciting, and educational.
I'd appreciate it if you would share your experiences, too. Maybe you have some successful tips, good suppliers, or unique ideas—let's share them! Teaching is a tough job, made easier through sticking together!