DARIEN – As the country awaits the birth of April the Giraffe’s calf, the process of new life snags headline after headline. Now you have the chance to experience this excitement in your own community with the 4-H incubation project at the Indian Prairie Public Library.

“This is a special opportunity for youth in the area to watch baby chicks hatch, up close, and learn about eggs, embryos and chicks,” said Tricia Giron, leader of the Darien Dragons 4-H Club. “It is a captivating, hands-on opportunity to engage youth in science.”

On April 17, the Darien Dragons 4-H Club will place two dozen eggs in an incubator at the library, and the group will monitor the equipment, care for the eggs, and even provide educational opportunities this spring. The library also plans to set up a live web cam to track the process, which takes about 21 days.

“What is more fascinating than seeing a fully developed baby chick emerge from an egg?” said Deanna Roby, 4-H Youth Development Educator for DuPage, Kane and Kendall Counties.  “Just three weeks of incubation transforms a seemingly lifeless chicken egg into an active, living being.”

This year, 200 classrooms in the tri-county area will be conducting 4-H Incubation and Embryology projects through University of Illinois Extension.

“During the incubation period, youth learn to prepare eggs, set up an incubator, record progress, turn eggs, and test eggs for fertility,” said Roby. “It also provides a unique way to observe the life cycle, while practicing science, math, creative thinking, and much more. Plus, the project promotes skills that align with Common Core and the Next Generation Science Standards.”

In addition to schools, some groups and organizations, like the Darien Dragons 4-H Club, take part. Giron said she initially planned the project as a home school project for her son, but decided to engage their whole 4-H club, which includes 10 youth, ages 9 to 12, and their families.

To prepare, Giron attended the University of Illinois Extension training for adults conducting the Incubation and Embryology project with 4-H. She then shared her knowledge with the Darien Dragons 4-H members, who completed an afternoon workshop on embryology.

“They learned about the anatomy of an egg, embryo development and details of the incubation process,” she said. “They also conducted experiments to learn more about porosity of egg shells and the effect of various liquids on the egg.”

In addition to daily monitoring, the 4-H club members will be helping the library with an upcoming science workshop, and in May when the chicks hatch, they will show others how to handle the baby chicks properly.

“It provides a memorable and personal experience with science,” said Natalie Williams, Head of Youth Services for Indian Prairie Public Library District. “People are more likely seek out information and remember what they learn when they watch it come to life, when they can hold it, and play with it.”

The first special event, “Mini-Scientist Academy: Eggs to Chicks,” will be Friday, April 21 from 4 to 5 p.m. Youth, Kindergarten to third grade, can learn about embryo development, incubators and more. To register, visit the IPPL website at calendar.ippl.info, or call 630-887-8760 ext. 264.

On Monday, April 24, at 6 p.m., library visitors are welcome to join the 4-H members as they candle the eggs, a process that uses light to identify if eggs are fertile and to determine the stage of embryo development. Chicks should hatch around May 8, and the white leghorn chicks will spend about a week at the library before going to their new homes.

Throughout the month-long project, visitors can view the eggs in-person anytime the library is open and library website visitors can watch the eggs, and eventually chicks, via live web cam, which will be available at www.ippl.info. 4-H members also will be at the library on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings to maintain the equipment and check on progress.

“Families will learn about life cycles; they will get to observe, hypothesize, log progress, and engage in activities, including art,” said Williams. “This is the kind of experience that reminds us that we are always surrounded by opportunities for hands-on learning. We want to encourage families to play and learn together. I admire that these parents actively seek out and create experiences for their children, and for the kids in our community, to grow and interact with the world around them.”

For more information about 4-H Youth Development programs or University of Illinois Extension, visit go.illinois.edu/extensiondkk. University of Illinois Extension provides educational programs and research-based information to help Illinois residents improve their quality of life, develop skills and solve problems.