Kindergartners squealed with nervous delight as they watched Gering High School FFA members’ piglets squeal and snort in a makeshift pen of mats on the front lawn of Geil Elementary on the morning of Wednesday, March 31.
The students have been learning about animals and other living things in science this past month. After seeing their excitement with hatching baby chicks, teachers Jen Bohnsack and Bethany Jolliffe wanted to continue that enthusiasm. When Bohnsack heard that the FFA chapter had recently gotten piglets, she asked ag teacher Carrie Johns if a couple of her students could bring them to Geil and tell the kindergartners about their pigs.
“We always try to incorporate developmentally appropriate, hands-on learning experiences for our students, so this project aligned well with our overall learning objectives,” Jolliffe said. “Animals are something that kids can easily understand and connect with, so we knew it would be very engaging for them.”
The students loved the pigs almost as much as they loved the chicks. Both Jolliffe and Bohnsack were pleased with their questions for FFA members Madi and Hannah Walker, who brought the pigs to school.
“We were very proud of our students,” Bohnsack said. “Normally at this age, they have stories to tell and have a hard time formulating questions. This group of kids asked questions, good questions and wanted to know all about the pigs. Their biggest question was ‘Why did they squeal so loud?’”
Before meeting the pigs, the kindergarten classes hatched chicks through a 21-day partner program with 4-H and youth extension associate Jana Schwartz.
Schwartz provided the classes with the proper equipment and a few lessons throughout the process. They began with 22 eggs, and 15 of them hatched. Jolliffe said the chick project provided multiple lessons for the students.
“When we candled the eggs, we could all see the chicks moving inside the eggs, and it was so neat to see the kids begin to understand what was happening inside the eggs,” she said. “My favorite part was when the kids saw their first chick hatch, because they applauded for the chick and encouraged it to keep working to come out of the shell. They were encouraging the chicks very much like we want them to encourage each other when they need it.”
Bohnsack said both she and Jolliffe were intentional about providing as many hands-on experiences as possible for their students this year. She is grateful for all the opportunities they’ve had.
“We have been very fortunate to be able to provide in person learning this year, and so at the beginning of the year, Bethany and I decided we wanted to provide as many experiences as possible to these kids for as long as possible, in case we ended up going back to remote learning,” Bohnsack said. “My favorite part of these projects is watching the kids as they learn and being able to see the light bulb go off in their young minds. When you ask most of them what their favorite part of school is, they say science. We want them to always have that love.”