Foundation grant allows an ‘egg-citing’ program to expand

Michelle Linscott is known throughout pockets of Jefferson County as “the chick lady.” That’s because the Jefferson County Farm Bureau member helps run ChickQuest, a 4-H agriculture STEM education program for third graders. Over the past four years, she’s helped challenge hundreds of students to use science, technology, engineering and math skills to investigate the life cycle of an embryonic chicken egg. An incubator is placed in the third grade classrooms where students can monitor living eggs and then track the chicks’ progress after they hatch.

“I love going into the classroom and doing hands-on experiments. We’re introducing scientific terms to the students and teaching curiosity to these kids. I’ll run into kids at the store and they always say ‘That’s the chick lady,’” Linscott laughed.

Now, thanks to a grant from the Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation, twice as many third graders will be able to participate in ChickQuest. This year, the foundation awarded Jefferson County Farm Bureau a $3,000 Action & Awareness Grant for the program. The funds will pay for an incubator in every third grade classroom in the county. That works out to 33 classrooms in 14 elementary schools.

Abigail Boka, Denali Blood and Savannah Swearingen check out eggs and the incubator at Karaffa Elementary School.

“This is your county Farm Bureau funding at work,” Linscott said. “We’re teaching both children and parents where their food comes from and the science behind it. The kids love it. One of the first things they ask when starting third grade is ‘When do we get the chicks?’”

Previously, the ChickQuest program had only six incubators that rotated among several elementary schools. The foundation incubator-4grant will help ChickQuest meet the increasing demand for the popular program, which is a partnership between Jefferson County Farm Bureau and the county Extension office. Besides the incubators, funding will help cover the cost of supplies and fertilized eggs ($2 per egg). Previously, Linscott would visit all the classrooms herself but this expansion will require more volunteers, expanding Farm Bureau’s reach in the county.

“For the past couple of years, it’s been nothing but chickens for me from January to May. At one point I had 180 chickens in swimming pools in my garage. That was crazy,” Linscott laughed. “The neat thing is that after the chicks leave, a lot end up at local farms and some of the kids have their coops and bring the chickens back to the classroom. This is such a great program.”

Pictured on front of website is Hannah Long who celebrated her birthday along with some of the chicks.

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