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Memories hatch after 16-year-old school letters resurface

Staff writer

David Vogel graduated from Hillsboro High School in 2008, and has become a successful graphic designer. But when he looks back at his fifth grade year at Hillsboro Elementary, one memory stands out from the rest.

“Chickens,” he said.

He’s not alone. Many of his classmates have the same response.

Before the elementary school had its outside garden and chicken coop, when regulations still allowed it, Rod Just would have his classes hatch eggs he received from Jerry Kline of Marion.

“(Just) knew I had (chickens), so somewhere along the line we communicated and he asked me if he could have some for school,” Kline said.

This experience was brought back to memory when Kline recently found a packet of letters by grateful students of Just’s 2001 fifth grade class.

Kline said it was interesting re-reading the letters and seeing how well the fifth graders put together their letters.

“I really enjoyed the excitement of being a mother (sort of, not to a child!),” Amanda Faber said in her letter.

“Mr. Just helped two chicks out of their shells and they both died,” Anna Woelk wrote. “That’s OK, it is part of nature.”

“I think my chicks will like it at my house,” Grant Schneider said. “They will have a lot of space to run around.”

Letters also included various facts students had learned throughout the process.

“Mr. Heyen came to do some ‘egg’cellent ‘egg’sperements for our class,” Steph Abbott wrote. “I never knew that just incubating an egg could be so delecate.”

“I learned the life-cycle of a chick and you can’t hatch store eggs,” Jordan Kohlman said. “I’m not a good letter-writer, so, thank you.”

The process included Just bringing an incubator to class for the students to closely watch the hatching process.

“All the students got to get an egg,” Just said. “We put their name on it to see if their egg would hatch and then we’d incubate them.”

The chicks would stay in the classroom for a week, until they either got sent home with the students or back to the farm.

“The students got to take their chicks home if the parents allowed them to do that,” Just said.

Vogel remembered he kept his, along with another classmate’s, in his parents garage.

“They got pretty big,” Vogel said. “Then they went out to a farm somewhere, and I’m pretty sure they got eaten by coyotes.”

Learning by using live animals is what made the experience so memorable, Vogel said.

“I think it’s because we hatched chicks from eggs,” Vogel said. “It’s kind of a unique experience for someone who did not grow up on a farm.”

Kline said re-reading the letters of gratitude for the eggs reminded him about how proud he felt that he had helped with the project.

“I was glad to do it,” Kline said. “To make somebody happy and so they could learn.”

Last modified March 9, 2017

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