One of the biggest struggles for educators right now as they try to teach their students online is keeping kids engaged.
But Anne Thiebeau, a reading specialist at Sierra Verde STEAM Academy outside of Phoenix, stumbled upon a trick: livestream chicks and ducklings as they hatch and you’ll likely get more engagement than you bargained for.
“I had parent emails—'we just saw one hatch!'—at, like, 11 o clock at night,” Thiebeau said.
Thiebeau runs a popular after-school science club for kindergarteners through 6th graders that’s all about eggs. As part of the club, students incubate and hatch chicken and duck eggs at the school.
But this year, at the tail-end of spring break, word came down that schools would be closed for an extended period. Teachers had only until the end of the day to pack up their classrooms. The electricity would be shut off.
“A lot of us were planning to Zoom from our classroom,” said Thiebeau. “We were in a panic trying to pack our cars.”
Thiebeau had to pack up everything she needed to teach from home, but also her small menagerie of class pets: a rabbit, turtle, and hermit crab. And then there were the 37 eggs and four incubators.
A Delicate Operation
Thiebeau placed the incubators on the floor of her car and crept home at 5 miles per hour with her flashers on. She inched through the large dips in the roads in the neighborhoods she drove through.
“Incubators aren’t big, but they have to be flat and they can’t be rolling around,” she said. “I was trying to get it done in less than 30 minutes ... I didn’t want [the eggs] to be off of heat.”
And because babies, no matter the species, seem to have an uncanny ability to arrive at the most inopportune times, some of the chicks had begun hatching that day, and were breaking out of their eggs even as Thiebeau drove.
Once Thiebeau got the eggs home and situated in her bathroom and laundry room, safe—she hoped—from her two Labradors, she set up a livestream so her students could witness the birth of the chicks they had tended.
“I always stream out their hatchlings, it isn’t just this closure, the reason I did it,” said Thiebeau. “It became more important during this closure so the kids can see it happening, but they hatch when they hatch.”
However, this was the first time Thiebeau had livestreamed the hatchlings—or anything for that matter—from her laundry room and bathroom.
“The kids just enjoyed it,” she said. “They were like, ‘I saw your arm Mrs. Thiebeau! I saw your hand!’”
Thiebeau said she was also caught on a hot mic quacking at the ducklings as she tried to encourage them out of their shells.
The chicks and ducklings have since grown too big for Thiebeau’s laundry room and bathroom. They’ve moved to a local farm.
But she still has the other class pets. The rabbit and turtle have taken up residence in the Thiebeau’s guest house while the hermit crab has settled in the master bedroom.
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Photo courtesy of Anne Thiebeau.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.