Pheasants aid education

Students in the Warren County School District schools as well as the Tidioute Community Charter School, Head Start and homeschoolers will again have the opportunity this spring to learn embryology in their classrooms.

Jennifer Grooms, 4-H Extension educator in Youngsville, has been working with the 4-H Embryology program for the last 11 years in Warren County, and she noted that her predecessor, Phyllis Wright, ran a similar program for years.

Last year the project reached over 400 students in Warren County.

She said the Embryology Study of Life 4-H project is guided by the extension office and Warren County 4-H.

“The curriculum used by classroom educators was developed by the National 4-H Cooperative Curriculum System,” she said. “The record book used by the students was developed by Penn State.”

There are two project books for classroom educators – one for grades two through five and the other for grades six through eight.

“We typically contact the educator that coordinates science programming for the school district. The educators that have participated in past projects also receive notice of when the eggs will be available for pick up,” she said.

“The youth will be studying the incubation of pheasants. Some of the school district educators also obtain chicken and quail eggs from a supplier. We have used pheasant eggs because the birds, once they have matured, can be released in the wild,” Grooms said.

Grooms said she tells the teachers in advance that the birds cannot be released until they are 14 to 15 weeks old, and just like children, they must be fed and cared for.

The peeps are moved from an incubator to a brooder with a light to provide heat. She said that the brooder can be something as simple as a covered cardboard box, with shavings on the bottom to prevent injury.

The Embryology: Study of Life 4-H project requires 24 days to implement. That is equivalent to the number of days the eggs need to incubate. The classroom educators can extend the project into the growth and life cycle of the pheasant. Every classroom is a bit different in how it implements and extends the project.

Sometimes, if the birds can’t be kept in a classroom, a few area farmers might take them until they can be released.

Grooms noted that there have been occasions in the past where the birds proved to be distracting to a class, especially since they can fly a considerable distance when they are three weeks old, and can be difficult to catch.

“The 4-H project supports students’ natural curiosity of living things. The embryology program allows them to build biology concepts through direct interactions,” she added.

Participation in the project fulfills several national science standards. It also provides for a valuable lesson in agriculture and wildlife conservation.

Educators interested in participating may contact Meggi Wilcox by April 17 at mlw5609@ag.psu.edu or at 563-9388.

If youth have additional interest in the animal science projects, they can look into joining one of the 20 4-H clubs offered in the county.