At Skipcha Elementary School Monday first-graders watch closely over newly hatched ducklings inside an incubator and the school's growing duck population in the larger container. More than 30 eggs have hatched out of 48 the school received. First-graders are documenting the birds' life cycle and school staff members are turning eggs through the day, in the evening and over the weekends.

It’s hatching season at Skipcha Elementary School, where students and staff are watching a bumper crop of ducklings crack their shells.

Diane Murphy, principal’s secretary at the school, has taken on the project of ordering fertilized eggs to hatch as a life-cycle lesson the past five years.

This year, an improved incubation system is giving the school its largest batch of peeping ducklings yet.

On Monday, first-graders took turns visiting the science lab to see the new ducks, now spread out in multiple tanks with heat lamps keeping the squirmy birds chirping.

Two new hatchlings were drying in miniature incubators, born over the weekend.

The school started the life-cycle lesson with four dozen eggs acquired from a company in North Carolina. With the two new ones, the students are watching more than 32 ducklings with one more poking holes to hatch out.

Skipcha’s eight first-grade classes observed the growing life lesson as teachers and other staff members turned the eggs throughout the school day. Custodians turn the eggs in the evenings and staff members take turns during the weekend.

A Web cam trained on the incubators allows students and staff to watch the process from class and from home on the school’s web site.

“It’s teaching them about the life cycle of ducks,” said first-grade teacher Lindzee Reza as her students inspected the newest hatchlings, wishing they could touch the squeaking newborns.

First-graders learned about candling, using a lamp to keep the eggs warm and kept weekly journals monitoring the hatching.

“They saw the differences, when they grew fur and then feathers,” said first-grade teacher Britta Cleve-Ball. “They used the lamp to regulate heat. It was a hands-on experience.”

First-grade teacher Sudie Foster walked her students through the science lab Tuesday for another look at the tiny quacking newborns.

“It’s real-life science and we love it,” she said, noting that campus technologist Frank Arevalo expanded the project significantly by adding the web cam. She said friends out-of-state are following the duck hatchings.

“Seeing their excitement makes it worthwhile,” she said. “There is work involved, but we gladly do it to see their excitement.”

Leading her students in discussion, the first-graders said they were curious about where the ducks would live, wondered how quickly they would grow and when another one would hatch.

Foster said students were intrigued to learn that the tiny ducks use an “egg tooth,” a tiny notch at the end of their beak to “pip” through their shells and work their way to the light of the world.

They also found out that ducklings live on the nourishment provided in the yolk as they develop and that the effort to break through the shell builds important strength for the babies.

Elsewhere at Skipcha, fifth-graders are incubating chicks and Life Skills students are watching over a pair of emu eggs, set to hatch in the next few weeks.

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