A project that began in 2018 finally came to fruition this fall, and a community effort saw the arrival of six hens that will live on our campus as part of a learning model spanning both divisions.
It may seem like the chickens — and even the coop itself — magically appeared this fall. In fact, it was the result of a four-year study/proposal — combined with a generous donation from Foote parent Alex Shor — that began to take shape last spring. A Mini-Course for students in grades 6–8, led by former maintenance team member Mike Milazzo and Foote parent Harold Ellis, focused on the construction of a chicken coop, located behind the Lower School classrooms. Overseeing the project was a Foote parent who has extensive experience in chicken raising and maintenance. The structure was completed last May.
The fence-enclosed structure includes a coop for the hens to sleep, lay eggs, and of course feel safe. Outside their home is a ramp and other perching features, and areas to feed, and run around.
The parent brought the chickens to campus this September; the initial group included a Buff Orpington, an Ameraucana, a Barred Rock, a Leghorn, a Blue Laced Red Wyandotte, and a Ida Red. Lower School students help out with feeding the chickens and providing water for them, as well as collecting eggs. Parent volunteers also make regular visits throughout the week to check on their health, clean the enclosure, and to let the hens explore the surrounding area for additional exercise and enrichment.
These new fowl friends supplement the Lower School curriculum for many grades: kindergartners conduct a chick study every spring, monitoring and observing the eggs from incubation to hatching. First and 2nd graders will be able to observe the chickens as a part of their annual organism study, answering questions like: “What do living things need to live and thrive?” and “How are living organisms adapted to their environment?” They are also largely responsible for the care and maintenance of the chickens.
In grade three, the plan is to utilize the chicken’s eggs as a service learning opportunity — either through the sale of the eggs (and donation of the proceeds) or through direct donation and/or baking opportunities. Math skills and applications would also be employed in counting, budgeting, and planning for how to best use the eggs.
The Middle Schoolers, who have already helped build the structure, learn the basics of how to use tools, employ safety measures, and maintain an appropriate structure for the chickens. When regular school is not in session, the Vacation and Horizons programs can step in to provide continuity of care.
The project is designed to align directly with the science curriculum and as an enhancement to the social studies curriculum as it relates to “What do communities need to thrive? How do communities use their local resources?” It is also a reinforcement of the campus’ efforts towards community engagement and sustainability.
“Interaction with live animals has been proven to support children in the social emotional domain, and we anticipate the chickens would provide the same experience for our children,” according to the project organizers.
The project was a true community effort, with contributions from Foote parents (and chicken experts) Che Tiernan, Harold Ellis, and Charlotte Shahid, along with many former and current faculty/staff contributors who formed the initial Lower School task force and helped the effort grow from there.