Highlander students will soon have baby ducks to nurture

You’ve watched April the Giraffe, but have you seen the Duck Cam? Highlander School’s second grade is hatching ducklings, and they’re inviting you to peek in on the fun. They’ve installed a “duck cam,” and they’ve shared a link to the live feed on their Facebook page.

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You can view the Highlander Duck Cam here.

Drue Puckett, who has been teaching at the school for 22 years, says her students are already working on names for their new classmates.

“I have hatched ducks for the past 7 years, and we’ve had Duckey McDonald, Michael Quackson and Duckey Crockett.” Sometimes their names match the breed, like Bluebonnet for a blue runner and Macaroon for a French Duclair, and sometimes students choose from Trumpet of the Swan, a book they are currently reading. From all their suggestions, the class will create a ballot with three choices for each breed, and the entire school will vote on a name for each duck.

“We do not vote until they hatch and we get to know them,” says Puckett.

The “due date” for the ducks is Wednesday, May 3 – a 28 day gestation period – but breeds vary. A couple have begun to pip (break through the inner membrane of the egg with their bill), and ducks can take up to 48 hours to work their way out of the egg once that happens.

“It is a lesson in patience,” says Puckett.

The activity goes along with a unit on animals that hatch from eggs, and, for many years, classes hatched baby chicks.

“I was intrigued with the concept of imprinting on ducks. The first successful hatch was in 2010 with a darling duck named Jordan who imprinted on the kids and had no idea she was a duck. I got very attached to her as well. When school was out, she went to a farm in East Texas owned by a relative of one of my kids and is still living happily there.”

That’s one of Puckett’s provisions – the class hatches eggs only if a forever home can be found first.

“I always tell the parents at the beginning of the year I will be happy to hatch them IF they find a place for them to go. They are very motivated to find them a home.”

Most hatched ducklings go on to lead a happy country life. Like the ones – several years’ worth – that went to a duck-loving family in Waxahachie.

“She still has all of them. Except that one that was grabbed by a hawk. Poor guy.”

This year, one of the second graders has an aunt in Blue Ridge. The entire class plans to travel together on a Saturday to help them settle into their new home in a few weeks.

“Once they hatch and get a little bigger, they have swim lessons in a blow up pool outside. We have two sizes of pools and they love the water. We have learned to feed them crickets – we get them from the pet store and call them their ‘Happy Meals’ – and we put small fish in the pool. They quickly discover they are delicious, and this helps them find their own food when they are large enough to be moved to a protected pond area.”

Students who demonstrate that they are calm and responsible are permitted to have the ducklings wander about the room while they are working.

“The ducklings tend to snuggle up on their feet when they are at their desks and when they line up to leave the room, the ducklings instinctively line up with them. You’d be surprised how calm and industrious the second graders are with ducklings are in the room. The floor stays spotless as well since they don’t want anything to drop that the ducklings could eat.”

Lessons involve more than science and nature, says Puckett.

“The kids learn the safe way to pick up and hold the ducks, even when they get big. We also talk about what makes a good pet and a good pet owner, and how you can’t just dump a duckling at White Rock Lake when you are tired of it. These ducks are very pampered and loved.”