Red is such a boring, predictable color for a barn.

So for their chicken coop, tucked among the trees next to the pond, the middle school students at Our Lady of the Elms chose Valentine Pink.

And boy, is it pink. Like Barbie Dream House hot pink.

"It's definitely pinker than we could have imagined, but it's amazing," said Melanie Drouin, admissions director at the all-girls Catholic school in Akron.

But what's more important than the color is that the girls brushed and rolled on the eye-popping paint themselves. The chicken coop, which will soon house 10 baby chicks that currently live in the back of a classroom, is part of a new project at the school.

The school is transitioning to a project-based learning curriculum, meaning students spend more time with hands-on activities that drive home the lessons traditionally taught in a classroom. Six staff members at the school have already taken a project-based learning training course, and another two will do so this year.

The chicken coop, built with a grant from the GAR Foundation, will be part of a growing farm that already includes a raised-bed garden and will grow to include goats and possibly bees. The school will also create a brand, "Elms Inc.," to sell the chicken eggs and produce from the garden as part of an entrepreneurship program that will involve all of the students at the elementary and high schools.

"We just really want to get the girls up and outside," middle school science teacher Diana Ross said.

The farm will allow students to take advantage of the school's lush 30-plus acres in the middle of urban Akron off of West Market Street.

The chicken coop is housed near the school for easy access during a single class period.

Seventh-grader Maggie Myers knows what that means — students will be doing the work to take care of the chickens.

"It's going to be a lot to clean," she said.

The girls had a chance to help with the construction as well as the painting, a chance for several to have their first power-tool experiences, Myers said. She was excited for the end result, though.

"Maybe we can make some omelets at school," she said.

Sixth-grader Delani Smith, who thanks to a raffle was head of the school on the day students painted the coop, was relishing the chance to have baby animals around.

"They're furry, that's for sure," she said.

The school first ordered eggs, but they did not survive. A science class gently opened them for inspection.

The 10 chicks arrived this week at just 3 days old, joining class rabbit Chip in the back of a science classroom.

One chick with dark fur gets pushed around by the others, Delani noted, and the students won't stand for it. When the bullied chick is pushed away from the food or water, "we try to shove his little tush back in there," she said.

Ross, the science teacher, said the students know they get to see the fruits of their labor.

"They know it's hard work, they know it's dirty," she said. "It's not just cute little chickens."

 

Contact Jennifer Pignolet at jpignolet@thebeaconjournal.com, at 330-996-3216 or on Twitter @JenPignolet.