Let's Hatch Some Eggs! Great Spring Activities
Tips for Educators
Spring is finally here! Of course, spring in the Chicago area is always pretty frustrating...and such a tease! We'll have a few beautiful, warm, sunny days, and then we'll be plunged back into the 40’s and 50’s and gray skies again for weeks/months at a time. One has to be tough to master spring in Chicago.
As an educator, this is an exciting time, despite the unpredictable weather. The crocus are shooting up from the ground, along with the daffodils. The birds are nesting all around us, a wonder to watch. Life is peeping out from its winter hiding places, and there are so many opportunities for discovery.
In my years working at a preschool in Evanston, one of my fondest memories was our years of hatching eggs. I have a friend who is a wonderful science devotee and a generous supporter of local schools. She had hatching projects going in a handful of Evanston elementary schools, plus my preschool, for years. We hatched chickens, quail, ducks of various sorts, geese, even peacocks one year (didn’t have great luck with them, however!).
What a wonderful project to engage in with the children. The ducks and geese were by far the most appealing, I must say. Beginning with reading books about the egg hatching process, followed by talking about it with the children and discussing their questions, comments, insights, and interests. Then we showed them the incubator and discussed proper care of same (roughhousing boys were encouraged to be gentle around the incubator, and they mostly honored the request).
Everyone was delighted the day the eggs arrived. A period of quasi-boredom set in amongst the children during the weeks of waiting for the eggs to hatch (I think the ducks take just short of three weeks, if I'm remembering correctly). The staff was quite psyched and energized, however, and also a bit nervous...would they hatch? Was the incubator holding a steady temperature? The changes in spring Chicago weather could wreak havoc with the incubators if they weren’t carefully tended and adjusted. And then staff had to come in over the weekend to turn the eggs twice a day. A lot of time and energy is invested in this project, to be sure.
But the payoff is amazing, when the eggs start to crack, and one hears the babies peeping as they try to emerge! I had more than one “high risk” delivery I had to assist, but seeing those tiny little ducklings was such a great reward.
Caring for the ducklings, in a box with a big light for warmth, is another major task...cleaning up their mess regularly, keeping the food/water available for them, etc etc. It’s a big responsibility, to be sure. But the day the ducklings were old enough to take a swim in a large bin of water, WOW! Now that’s excitement! I would heartily recommend considering this project for your programs, but only if the staff is really enthusiastic and willing to put in some hard work.
Tips for Parents
Time to put away the boots at last! Yes, sledding and skating are fun, building snowmen and throwing snowballs and all that can be delightful for young children, but winter tends to wear on parents. So it’s always a happy day when the boots get put away. Take a walk through the neighborhood with your child(ren) and look for signs of spring. Are there flower stalks poking their way up from the ground? Do the children remember what those flowers looked like last year? What colors might they be?
How about the birds? I've seen robins and maybe even a cardinal...what have you seen in your neighborhood? Bird feeders are a wonderful investment for those of you who live in houses or who have a yard. The challenge is always in finding one that the squirrels can’t get access to. Talk to someone at the garden store about that.
Or just walk to the park and look up...you'll see some birds around. How about the bushes and trees, anything happening there? It’s fun to watch for signs of spring outdoors. Maybe this will be the year that you plant a small garden, or even a window box or a pot of flowers or herbs. Now is a good time to plant flowers from seeds indoors, then when they grow a bit, they can be transplanted into larger pots outside, only after the last frost date – in Chicago that’s close to the end of May (!).
You could even have fun with trying to sprout an avocado pit (this can be tricky and doesn’t always work) or try sprouting some beans by keeping them in wet paper towels for a few days and watching what happens.
Talk to the children about what is their favorite thing about spring, what do they want to do that they couldn’t do during the winter? Talk about your favorite springtime activities from when you were growing up...children love to know about what you were like as a child.
Most of all, take advantage of warm, sunny spring days to spend some time outdoors. Oh, and if it rains, put on a raincoat and grab an umbrella and splash in some puddles. Children love puddles...or go outside just after it rains and look for worms. For some mysterious reason, children are fascinated by worms! Take out some books from the library about growing things indoors and out, about the local animals in your area, and become nature explorers. Happy spring to all!