Sometimes serendipity comes to call and magic just seems to sprout up in the classroom. We teachers do what we can to make it happen, but magic events in school can just pop up on their own.
It all started as a science project to receive extra credit. Then we began to dream of spring in such a way that several students became motivated to cause something to burst forth into life. The first batch of eggs brought a scent, but not of spring!
When the quail eggs showed up one day we tenderly laid them in an incubator and plugged it in with fond but probably unrealistic hopes of being able to actually see what we’d only read about in books: the beginning of a life.
Our Three Days of Magic began several weeks before when a parent found a source for fertilized eggs and brought me a few. She had heard her son talk with great interest about our nature studies in science and had seen that I had set up a small see through incubator.
The Tuesday before this special week the eggs were just sitting there like they didn’t know they were supposed to hatch. The scheduled hatching day and 6 others passed with not a single peep except the voices of the students wondering why, and speculating on when, or even if . . .
Our thoughts eventually turned to other pursuits. We did our math, went on a field trip, and had a fine spring weekend. Monday morning showed droopy eyes as usual on Mondays at school.
Kids push themselves on Sunday evening, trying to hold back the calendar but Monday was here on that calendar if not in our hearts.
The first few moments of class were reluctant if not resistant.
Then we heard a tiny peep. At first no one would quite admit they heard it. Finally we were sure when several of us heard it clearly and looked up at the same time. We drifted as one toward the other room where the eggs were under a light.
As we froze to watch, we were spellbound by the awesome reality of the tiny egg showing a life of its own.
During the next few hours we went through the motions of work in a hypnotic daze–almost daring to believe it was really happening.
Each student and I as the teacher felt like new parents–giddy and excited, yet nervous about doing the right thing. The instructions were read and reread many times by various students determined to prepare for this amazing role of witnessing the start of a life.
At one dramatic point, the baby quail was out of the shell but was writhing in a seemingly vain effort to stand up. We talked of how important it is for people to go through their own struggles, and how it would be harmful for us to reach in and stand it up. It could even harm its chances for staying alive.
We spoke of codependence and independence. Onlookers realized how their parents must have felt when they were learning to walk and other mileposts of independence.
Near the end of the day the chirp got stronger and the chick seemed dried out as it finally got its sea legs and stood up on its own. The kids left that day only after serenely filing by the incubator as if to view their very own progeny.
The next few days only one thing was on our collective minds. All schoolwork was completed without additional comment, and an almost reverent aura filled the classroom.
Students would often ask if they could “go peek.” They would stay and stare till the spell was broken by another viewer or the next subject.
We fed it at a table where everyone could see and offer observations and hopes. No one had time to misbehave or argue that week, as we were all equally hypnotized by this tiny miracle of nature.
I couldn’t help but wonder if our modern and almost too sophisticated children wouldn’t benefit from having more rural influences in their lives. Maybe this could be an antidote for our tennis shoe-worshipping culture.
This precious fledgeling lived less than a week yet those few days affected the rest of our year. The day it died was somber. The next day a child brought a check box in which to bury it. Others contributed ideas and objects to the occasion.
That little quail took us all on a journey for our spirits we could never forget. We would never be the same. He was much more than just a “cute little guy.”
This tiny bird taught my students tons of science. They were so motivated to read and research all they could at every chance possible. He reminded us all of reverence for life, the wonders of nature, and profound tender sense of community and nurturing none of us will never forget.
Copyright by Hildra Tague. Obtain permission for use online or in print.