By Julie McCay Turner
Keith Kinney came to Lane School five years ago, dreaming of an outdoor classroom, and with the help of teaching assistant Jean Mickle and others, a splendid organic teaching garden has come together at the school.
At Mickle’s behest,‘Ask This Old House’ came to the school and installed raised beds and grape arbors. Several months later the garden was featured in the television program’s season premiere last October.After all that excitement, Kinney and Mickle wondered how to sustain enthusiasm for the outdoor classroom.
The school’s newly-arrived flock of chicks provides just the ticket.
Kinney and Mickle began researching the project months ago and soon learned that apparently no public schools in Massachusetts keep flocks. They submitted a grant, ‘The Life Cycle of Chickens,’ to Bedford Cultural Council in mid-September, and were granted funding in January.Health Department Director Heidi Porter helped negotiate the necessary permits, and the Couvee family shared egg handling lessons from their experiences at Chip-in Farm.
The garden is an outdoor classroom and the school’s flock isn’t just for show. No matter how much the chicks delight the students, they are here to teach. The school’s third grade curriculum focuses on animal adaptation; fourth grade students learn the internal and external structure of animals; and fifth grade works on the science of composting.
The fourth grade has already begun their structural studies using three state-of-the-art digital incubators purchased through the Cultural Council grant. Each provides an optimum hatching environment for three fertilized eggs, and counts down the days until hatching. A separate scope fits atop the unit, allowing students to watch the eggs’ internal development over those 21 days.These hatchlings will eventually be added to the flock that arrived on Friday morning.
The chicks currently reside under red warming lights and the eye of a closed-circuit TV camera in the Lane school library. A cluster of students surrounded the chicks on Friday morning, watching as they walked through their feed, drank water, and posed for photographs. Delivered from an Iowa farm, the chicks were chosen for their breeds’ tractability and even temper; they range from fluffy, pale yellow through a soft grey, to dappled brown and black.
As soon as they’re old enough and the weather warms, the chickens that arrived on Friday will move into a handsome coop donated by the Piccirillo family, and installed in the middle of the school’s garden classroom.
Editor’s Note: In a sweet piece of historical symmetry, Job and Martha Lane were among Bedford’s first farmers. The town’s Job Lane Farm Museum is located in Job and Martha’s historic house on North Road, within a mile of the school; Lane School third graders will visit and tour the house on June 1.
Learn more about the garden at Lane School