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Easter chicks give pupils “eggs-tra” science lesson

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Primary pupils have been learning about the science inside an egg, thanks to eleven fluffy Easter chicks and the University of St Andrews.

Researchers at the University, who study how early life experiences can help young animals to live long and happy lives, have been giving youngsters at Strathkinness Primary School the chance to look after some real life Easter eggs.

The children, in primaries one and two at the school, cared for several quail eggs for more than two weeks, during which time they watched the baby quails developing within the eggs. Some even saw the baby birds practising wing flapping and running inside the egg, before eleven hatched into fluffy chicks.

Dr Karen Spencer (pictured top right), from the School of Psychology and Neuroscience who heads the research team involved in the study, said: “We all love to eat eggs; they are a really healthy source of nutrition, except the chocolate ones of course! But eggs have another purpose. The main idea behind this project was to show the children how amazing eggs really are and give them an insight into how the contents of an egg can help a baby bird to grow and develop so it can hatch out ready to run around.”

‌Children from all year groups have been able to take part in the project, from learning how chicks get food from the yolk, to finding out how they hatch and why some eggs are more patterned than others. They have also been able to get hands-on experience of looking after incubating eggs, and now are studying and looking after the chicks too.

The children have been enthusiastic about the project. One said: “We got to see one hatch; it was wet and not fluffy. We had to wait and see it dry out.” Another remarked: “I got to hold two because one jumped onto my hand. They felt like furry footballs with eyes and beaks…” and “…the chicks were exercising their little wings. It was lovely!”

Dr Spencer is thrilled with the pupils’ enthusiasm for the project, and added: “It’s so great to interact with the children and see how excited they are about the birds. They have soaked up so much scientific information about embryonic development and animal behaviour, it’s fantastic. This is one of the best parts of my job.”

Mrs Juliette Jackson, the teacher for primary one and two at Strathkinness, said: “It was a fantastic experience which the pupils enjoyed so much. It has involved lots of cross curricular activities, which is great.”

Dr Spencer’s team plan to repeat the project next year, but on a larger scale and involving more primary schools in the area. If your school would like to get involved or if you have any questions, please contact Dr Spencer by email (karen.spencer@st-andrews.ac.uk) for more details.


Notes to news editors

Issued by the University of St Andrews Communications Office, contactable on 01334 462530 or proffice@st-andrews.ac.uk

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