A Project Hatches in Richmond


Kelli Barram, center, with fourth graders in the edible garden at Washington Elementary School in Richmond CA.

What kid wouldn’t want to hatch chicks from eggs? The lucky fourth graders at Washington Elementary school in Richmond, CA get to learn everything about chickens firsthand in a program called “An Eggucational Experience.” From watching the embryos develop in eggs (they use flashlights in a darkened classroom to look through the eggs), then witnessing them hatching and then helping them raise them into chickens, they do it all.  It’s project-based learning that excites kids to become responsible and engaged.  The chicken program is also a springboard for other core curriculum subjects from essay writing and anatomy lessons, and it’s so popular Kelli has had younger kids tell her they “can’t wait to be fourth graders.”

The program didn’t even exist before Kelli Barram began volunteering at the school back in 2009. She was an urban farmer between jobs who worked as a therapist to pay the bills.  She found her own best therapy was working in the garden so naturally, when Washington Elementary, the school her kids attended, had a garden that needed help she volunteered.  It was a niche that wasn’t filled and  the school was thrilled to have someone interested enough to take over. Kelli  found that when many kids had the option to be in the garden, they would take it. The principal was so impressed she helped find funding to pay “Farmer Kelli” to stay around. She also was eventually able to find additional funding through Urban Tilth, a local group that cultivates agriculture in West Contra Costa County. She now works with all 21 classes of kids at the school and the teachers incorporate the outdoor classroom in all kinds of lessons. Her three day a week job is very busy  but she’s not complaining. “Of course it’s a great job, she says, “I made it up.”





observing developing embryos in eggs (left) chicks hatching (right)
photos contributed by Kelli Barram



Kids study flowers with magnifying glasses in another lesson.



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