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Small wonders hatching at Boys & Girls Club.

Byline: Lynne Klaft

LEOMINSTER - The chicks are a big hit, and the kids all want to hold them. They have names - Herman, Henry, Chickie, Chiquita, Butterscotch. Embryology Program students at the Boys & Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster watched them grow from inside an egg into yellow, fluffy peepsters over the past month.

"We used curriculum provided by UMass Extension and the national 4-H program, which integrates the concepts of embryology into easy-to-use math, science and language arts lesson plans," said the club's Executive Director Donata Martin.

The weekly lessons are linked to academic standards and aim for "significant life-skill outcomes," according to Ms. Martin.

Teaching about the development of life and encouraging teamwork and responsibility are part of the program's goals, as students care for the eggs in the incubator and the chicks in the brooder.

Volunteer Mike Mintz donated the eggs, and the chicks will be taken back to his flock when they are old enough to fly.

Mr. Mintz brought the fertilized eggs to the club along with an incubator, a special light for the chick brooder and food. So far, five chicks have hatched - three Buff Orphingtons and two Marans.

Club program instructor Kyle Sargent teaches 20 students along with Jannie Lor and Luci Arel. As soon as he opens the door to the room where the chicks are kept, kids flock to the room for a chance to see and hold the chicks themselves.

Michael Whitney, 11, watched the chicks develop inside the egg by "candling" them: shining a light through the egg.

"You could see veins growing and then at the end the whole chick. There are air pockets on each end of the egg so that they have air when they are ready to get out of the egg," said Michael.

The students monitor the temperature and humidity of the incubator, feed the chicks and will soon be seeing newly hatched ducklings and turkeys, which Mr. Mintz will bring to the club.

"They are adorable," said Hesadiah Callis, 11. "And feisty!" said her friend Yanairiz Rodriguez, 11, as they took turns holding a chick.

Jose Rios, 11, said that he helped his grandpa with his chickens and picked up eggs for him. "His claws are hard, but he is soft," said Jose as he held the chick gently with both hands.

The Boys & Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster's after-school program averages 225 children per day.

Ms. Martin believes that the club's focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) prepares children, ages 8 to 18 after school and 4 to 7 during the summer, to the sciences, arts and music, civic engagement, entrepreneurship and leadership for the workplace and success in life, and hands-on activities is what has helped increase enrollment and average daily attendance.

The Embryology Program has been deemed a success. The chicks are kept next to a window in the hallway of the club, where children are keeping tabs on their growth.

The program will be repeated again in the fall. For more information, call (978) 534-8358 or visit



CUTLINE: (1) Yanairiz Rodriguez, left, and Hesadiah Callis take turns holding a 9-day-old chick at the Boys & Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster's Embryology Program. (2) A Buff Orphington chick, hatched a little more than a week ago in the club's Embryology Program.
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Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:May 17, 2013
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