Saturday, April 16, 2011

Some lessons just shouldn't be learned at 5.

We've had a very hard week this week anticipating the birth of our chicks.  In a nutshell, they didn't come out when expected and we were all quite bummed.  {Most of all me, who feels incredibly guilty about their demise.}  5 days which it's practically impossible for them to hatch...I went in to the classroom to throw the eggs away.  They were starting to smell, had been completely still for a couple of days and Farmer Heather told us at that point it was too late.  When I went in yesterday to get rid of them before the kids arrived, I could NOT believe that there was a tiny hole in one egg.  And it was peeping!

We watched the hole grow all day and to be perfectly honest, did not get much of our planned activities done.  We listened to her peep, watched her move and all took turns huddling around the incubator.

Right before lunch, as we were inviting the other kindergarten classes to come down to see how the hole had grown, she karate chopped through and was out!  The kids were buzzing with excitement, all the adults were "oooooh" and "oh my goodness!"ing and our admins even came down to check her out.  I {of course} got teared up, having previously given up hope that we would have any babies.  Hence, her name, Miracle.

She flopped around for a bit, taking good breaths and sleeping in different positions.  She was the buzz of the school for the rest of the day.  {And encouraged my kids to do some amazing impromptu writing!}  I was SO relieved.

Until I came in this morning.  Our precious little one didn't make it through the night.  I cried {again} and hid the entire incubator outside, telling the kids that she had gone back to the farm the night before.  I was so torn on what to do and felt a serious moral dilemma about telling them truth or feeding them a lie.  We had done an entire unit on oviparous animals, candled the eggs and learned about their stages of development, watched them grow from the inside and were already quite connected to them.  Then after watching her "birth" and having such a truly incredible experience, I just couldn't leave it at that.  I was devastated finding her this morning and I just couldn't bear to see it on their little faces.  So I told them that she was lonely being the only one in there and that she'd gone back to the farm that night to be with her mommy.  I said we'd see if she could come back to visit us after spring break...knowing full well that I will be purchasing live chicks next weekend to take in as "their" hatchlings.

I still feel somewhat bad about misleading the kids because death is a part of life and sometimes things like that happen.  I know there are teachers, maybe even parents, who don't agree with me on this decision.  But the more I think about it, I just think...why?  My favorite thing about kids this age is their naivety and innocence.  I pride myself on protecting them from the big bad world and all of the scary things they'll eventually be forced to encounter.  I just don't feel like I need to be a part of putting that on them.

I thought of the following poem that I read at our year end celebration every June.  It was a little different this time around.  And while I agree with most of it, this was a lesson I thought they just didn't need to learn yet:

All I really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten
by Robert Fulghum

All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be, I learned in kindergarten.  Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sand pile at school.

These are the things I learned: share everything. play fair. don't hit people. put things back where you found them. clean up your own mess. don't take things that aren't yours. say you're sorry when you hurt somebody. wash your hands before you eat. flush. warm cookies and milk are good for you. live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.  take a nap every afternoon.  when you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together. be aware of wonder. remember the little seed in the styrofoam cup - the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.  goldfish and hamsters and white mice {and chicks} and even the little seed in the styrofoam cup all die.  so do we. then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned, the biggest word of all...look.

Everything you need to know is in there somewhere.  The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation.  Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.  Take any of those items and extrapolate it into sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your family life or your work or government or your world and it holds true and clear and firm.  Thick what a better world it would be if we all - the whole world - had cookies and milk at about 3 o'clock in the afternoon then lay down with our blankies for a nap.  Or if all governments had as a basic policy to always put things back where they found them and to clean up their own mess.  And it is still true, no matter how old you are, when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.


  1. OMG this is a really difficult situation which happened to me years ago. I replaced the eggs and started over. Here is what I think (for what it's worth). I lost a parent at a very young age and just reading this brought a lump to my throat because this becomes such a difficult issue. However, each family deals with death in their own way and as a parent I would not want these conversations to take place at school when my children were this young. People have different religious beliefs and cope in their own way. Now I realize these are chicks but I would not want to make 5 year olds so miserable. Why not start over? Remind them that some eggs might not hatch.
    You have such good instincts. I would want my child protected by you. Let them learn this life changing lesson another time... in another place... or never. I think you are a kind and sensitive teacher.

  2. Oh, no! I am soooo sorry! It is horrible when it goes wrong, I've learned from experience. I had 2 years of having nothing hatch and one year where the 4 that came out, weren't quite "right". It's very discouraging!

    This year I had the best hatch I've ever had 8/12, and although I prepped my class and myself that all wouldn't hatch, we were still bummed. Even worse, we had one that had a bad leg, but he pepped up. He was doing so well all week. My kids were cheering for him. On Friday, he died. I was a mess!

    One bit of advice I can give from my years of bad up with someone. We have the advantage of having 7 teachers doing chicks at the same time, so if (I should say...when) someone doesn't have any hatch. We can take one from another room along with its' cracked egg. I know it's tricking the kids, but it's hard to have nothing hatch. It's too much to see their little faces so disappointed.

    I hope you do try again because when it's a good hatch, it's truly took me 4 tries to experience.

  3. I think you made the right choice in trying to protect them from the inevitable "death" lesson. They will eventually have to learn about life and death...but I think they can wait a few years before they are forced to face that 5 years old...they should be learning about sharing and getting along with others...not about death...not just yet.


    Once Upon a Time in First Grade

  4. I am so sorry to hear about your chickens. But I feel that you made the right decision in not telling them. There is a time and place to learn about death and at the age of 5 is not the right time.

  5. I am so sorry for your loss. I, too, have experienced this and always live in fear of it happening again. I'm getting ready to put 24 newly hatched eggs in on Tuesday. It is extremely hard for any child to understand life and death, and I agree, you did the right thing. Please don't let this experience stop you from trying again next year!

  6. I'm sooo sorry for your experience. I have always wanted to hatch chicks but my school won't let me. :( After hearing your story, I am seeing a not so glamorous side of this whole process. I definitely think you made the right choice by not telling them the truth. Earthquake drills tramatize my little ones, so I can only imagine what losing a chick could do.


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