By John Higgins
Beacon Journal staff writer
At Betty Jane Elementary School in East Akron, 8-year-old Alyssa Miller couldn't wait for class to begin on Tuesday morning.
She sneaked upstairs to Fran Bostick's third-grade classroom before 8 a.m. to see whether the eggs she and her classmates had tended for most of May had hatched.
She heard peeps and discovered that the first of four viable chickens had hatched.
''He looked gooey kind of and like not that much hair, and it wasn't that puffy,'' Alyssa said.
The class named the chick Yoko. By Wednesday morning, a second egg had hatched, producing the lighter-colored Yoshi.
The third-graders at Betty Jane are among more than 1,700 students at 36 elementary schools in Akron who learned about the life cycle of egg-bearing animals this spring by caring for chicken eggs in incubators.
They witnessed the miracle of life, but
their teachers witnessed another miracle engaged, motivated students in the last weeks of school with summer vacation within sight.
''I didn't have to tell them to record in their logs,'' Bostick said. ''They went and recorded. They came in every day and checked on the eggs.''
Bostick's class started with a dozen eggs in early May and shined a bright penlight on them to illuminate movement, spots, veins and other signs of life. Only four of the 12 were viable.
''I got nervous because I thought . . . that we weren't going to have any,'' said 9-year-old Jennah Uddin. ''We had one that was all orange inside and that meant that it was dead.''
They kept the viable eggs in the incubator, making sure the humidity was 60 percent and the temperature was 100 degrees.
The students took turns as ''egg nanny'' each day, recording the humidity and temperature. The typical incubation period is 21 days, so while the chicks were developing, the students experimented.
The students tested regular store-bought eggs to determine how porous the shells were by immersing them in different liquids.
''I liked doing the experiments like when we put them in vinegar, corn syrup and water,'' said Morghan Tucker, 9, whose teacher is John Dombrosky.
Michael Morrison, 9, said he was surprised to learn that eggs have a pocket of space inside called an ''air cell'' that chicks need to survive.
Although the lessons are focused on science, Bostick was able to relate the material to other subjects as well.
''I was able to incorporate it into everything we did,'' said Bostick, who has been with the district for 23 years. ''We even did social studies when we found out about chicken farms and the farming community.''
Bostick said she had doubts when the district's science specialist, Katrina Halasa, told her about the ChickQuest curriculum, which was designed by Ohio State University Extension's 4-H program to meet state science standards.
''I was skeptical about the fact that they wouldn't hatch, that there would be a problem, that these children would be disappointed,'' she said. ''And I wasn't sure about what they would be learning.''
Yoko and Yoshi hatched in time for the students to observe their first few days of life.
''I thought it was fun watching how they would react and it looked like they were really confused,'' said 9-year-old Malena Dabolcyn.