As students and staff arrive each morning at Baker Montessori School, they’re cheerfully greeted with a flock of clucking chickens.
The laying hens bob their heads up and down, trilling softly as they make their way around the large, enclosed chicken run safely housed near the gym. Some begin squawking, having laid their daily egg in the nesting area.
They waddle toward the entry and peck at the ground as a small group of students from Baker — formerly known as Wilson Montessori School — comes in to visit.
“Observing and caring for a flock of chickens is a great way for students to learn,” Principal Shameika Sykes-Salvador said. “This allows them to study biology, compassionate animal husbandry, food science and sustainable living practices.”
The first flock nested on campus eight years ago thanks to an initial donation from the school and its parent-teacher organization. The teachers quickly began using the hens to bring classroom lessons to life.
At first, not all the resident fowl were good community neighbors.
“When a young rooster crows for a class, it’s a magnificent sound. Not so much on weekends when those living nearby want to sleep in,” Early Childhood Co-Teacher Nichole Campbell said, noting that they’d found good homes for all the baby roosters, allowing students to stay focused on the hens.
The birds’ educational influence advanced in 2019, after the school’s construction and renovation project was completed. Part of the 2012 Bond Program, the new campus allowed for a new three-story addition, as well as a community learning space, gym, two-level library, large windows and expanded green areas designed to support fruit trees, dedicated gardening areas, and a large chicken run.
With breed names of Barred Plymouth Rock, Sapphire Olive and Blue Orpington, the students decided to give the chickens uncommon names, such as Zero, Crouton, and Maria Montessori. Though they are not pets, the chickens do provide social-emotional support during daily feeding times and coo when gently held.
Faustine Llorca, a fifth grader who has worked with the chicken project for three years, convinced her parents to take home an available chick.
“We adopted Daffodil, and she lived in my backyard,” Llorca said. “It was so much fun!”