• Teacher Jeffrey Post hands out baby chicks to students, from left, Zack Hands, Alana Carter, Rory Mehren and Marissa VanderVeen
  • From left, Marissa VanderVeen, Zack Hands, Rory Mehrens and Gabby Parrish laugh as their robotic spheres appear to have minds of their own

From Baby Chicks to Rolling Robots, It’s All Cool Science

by Morgan Jarema  

The end of the school year brought students in Jeffrey Post's fifth-grade class one of the world's oldest lifecycle lessons alongside one that's fairly high-tech.

In the back of Post's classroom, a group of students were enjoying some of their last snuggles with 21-day-old chicks they hatched themselves.

"They're going back to the farm tomorrow because they're starting to stink a little," explained Marissa VanderVeen.

Final cuddle: Alana Carter gets in some quality time with a 21-day-old chick hatched in her classroom"They're named after 'Star Wars,'" said Alana Carter. "That brown fuzzy one is Chewbacca."

Added Zack Hands as he cupped his chick in both hands, "I was one of the people who had to turn the eggs twice a day -- once in the morning and once when school was almost over."

Why turn the eggs? "I think it's because they get too hot on just one side if you don't," said Marissa.

Fifth-grade science curriculum is focused more on earth, space and energy, but Post jumped last year when a farmer friend approached him with the idea to hatch chicken eggs in class.

Teacher Jeffrey Post ended the year with two distinctly different extra-curricular projects"It was the talk of the school, so I had to do it again this year," he said. "The students love it. A lot of this is above our curriculum, but most of them wouldn't have access to something like this outside school."

And it was obvious their brief study of embryo development had sunk in. Zack had been at a baseball game recently when he noticed a baby hummingbird that had fallen out of its nest.

"You could tell it was about seven days old because of the beak development," Zack recalled.

Switching Gears

After thoroughly washing their hands, the same group who had held chickens just moments before was in the hallway, holding tablets on which they attempted to move app-enabled robotic balls Post borrowed from the high school along a duct-tape track.

"You kind of have to do math with these," Marissa explained. "It's not just for fun. And it takes skill, because you have to figure out the angle and the speed to get it to go where you want it to."

Zack Hands with a 21-day-old chick hatched in his classroomPost said he tied the robotic ball lessons with discussions about how scientists operate space vehicles such as the Mars rover, and that he had his fifth-graders explain to other classrooms how they worked, "which gives them an opportunity to teach."

So how was it going from the farm to the robotic lab in under an hour?

"That's the thing about Mr. Post," Zack said. "He'll have us do something with no technology that's super-cool. Then he'll have us do something like this that is huge technology, and that's super-cool too."

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Mr. Post's classroom chickens hatching

From left, Gabby Parrish, Marissa VanderVeen, and Zack Hands watch as Rory Mehrens tries to guide a robotic ball along a duct tape track

Submitted on: June 6th 2017

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