Virginia Cooperative Extension - Loudoun (VCE Loudoun) 4-H celebrates a banner year for its Embryology Program, an annual program that provides first-time agricultural experiences to youth who are far removed from the sources of the food they eat. Through the program, 4-H collaborates with Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) to provide students the opportunity to observe the beginning of a life cycle of a chicken. VCE Loudoun 4-H provides fertilized eggs and teacher education; LCPS provides incubators.
In partnership with 57 Loudoun County schools, this program teaches basic biology and life science to students. This spring, nearly 18,000 students observed the beginning of the life cycle of a chicken, all while learning through a curriculum that matches Standards of Learning (SOL) criteria in living processes, investigation, and reasoning.
Beyond the SOL curriculum, teachers said that the Embryology Program helped students build life skills such as teamwork, critical thinking, resiliency, cooperation and managing feelings. Teachers also cited examples of curiosity and engagement. One teacher shared that a student with limited language use was “very engaged and vocal about this project.”
New this year, VCE Loudoun 4-H initiated a pilot Poultry Production Program that expands the scope of their annual Embryology Program with a goal to raise youths’ consciousness around food systems and food insecurity. With generous support from the Val & Bill Tillett Foundation, VCE Loudoun 4-H raised 25 embryology chicks for production and donation to a local nonprofit, Tree of Life Ministries.
VCE Loudoun 4-H has recently received an endowment and grant from the Val & Bill Tillett Foundation. The $100,000 endowment will fund 4-H programming, and the $100,000 grant will fund agricultural programming, including the Poultry Production Program.
4-H is the youth development education program of Virginia Cooperative Extension, which focuses on development of life skills. Anyone who would to learn more about 4-H may contact Loudoun 4-H Extension Agent Carly Wright at 703-777-0373 or by email. More information about 4-H also is online at loudoun.gov/4-H.