The learning opportunities afforded by observing, caring for, and interacting with animals in early childhood classrooms are tremendous. This year, Shomrai Preschool, located in Silver Spring, Maryland, had an amazing chance to participate in RentACoop’s month-long Hatching Rental program. Located in Germantown, Maryland, RentACoop offers a variety of chicken coop or egg hatching rental programs for schools and homes.
At the start of the four-week rental period, which began on Feb. 1, the school received two baby chicks and seven fertilized eggs along with an incubator, brooder, and all of the supplies needed to care for the chicks. Over the course of the month, all of the classes took turns visiting the chicks and the eggs. The children documented and discussed the growth of the chicks and hypothesized about the future of the eggs. Kitat Tevah, one of the 3-year-old classes, enjoyed talking about the chicks and imitating their sounds and movements so much that the children initiated a game of imitating different animals.
Children from Kitat Devash, the 2-year-old classroom, were excited to create observational drawings; they noticed details such as shapes, lines, and colors, and created their impressions of the chicks and the egg. “I made a pointed nose,” Neomi explained to her friends. “This is a body,” Shana said, pointing to a specific part of her drawing. “They have wings!” Meir said, as he examined the birds. Moshe was interested in the differences between him and the chicks: “They don’t have a kippa,” he observed.
As a Jewish preschool, one of Shomrai Preschool’s core values lies in social emotional learning, since how we treat one another is such an important tenet of Judaism. Observing and caring for animals offers a deeper insight to these social emotional skills. When the eggs hatched into baby birds, the opportunity to care for those helpless newborn chicks served to develop empathy in the children. Furthermore, animal interactions are so important not just for children but for everyone, reminding us that Hashem has a plan for us all — even the little baby chicks who will grow up soon to lay their own eggs.
By Chaya Sara Melendez Marizan
Chaya Sara Melendez Marizan has been a 2-year-old teacher at Shomrai Preschool for four years. In addition to her love for working with young children, she enjoys spending time playing with and caring for her dog and cat at home