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ELM CITY — When a severe thunderstorm swept into Wilson County Monday evening with high winds, lightning and pelting rains, the lights flickered.
That was enough to send a chill down the spine of second-grade teacher Sonya Hayes, who immediately began to worry about the freshly hatched chicks under the heat lamp in her classroom at Frederick Douglass Elementary School.
That’s when the school’s principal, Annette Faison, got a somewhat frantic call from Hayes.
“She was worried about the baby chicks,” Faison said. “If the power goes out, they can only survive 30 minutes.”
The power feeds the heat lamp, which keeps the hatchlings warm without a mother hen.
For more than three weeks, Hayes’ second-graders had watched and waited for a couple dozen eggs to mature and hatch, bringing to a close an embryology project in life science provided by the 4-H program at the North Carolina Cooperative Extension office in Wilson County.
“I was hoping we would not have to do a baby chick rescue,” Faison said. “That scared me because I did not want my students to come back and see that some chicks had died, so my wonderful custodian, Mr. Armstrong, came out and made sure our baby chicks are OK.”
Charlie Armstrong came to the school and visited the class and all the others with similar experiments.
“I just came down the hall and checked on my chickens,” Armstrong said. “They were hatching and warm. The heat was on and the light was on. I called Mrs. Hayes to let her know. She was glad the lights were on, and they were doing great.”
Everyone had a sigh of relief.
When she arrived at school Tuesday, Hayes honored Armstrong by naming one of the chicks after him.
“This one is named Charlie because he checked on the chicks for me last night,” Hayes said. “The reason why I know is he’s got freckles.”
Second-grader Joshua Liles, 8, was happy the birds were OK.
“We thought it was really cool,” Joshua said. “The thing I like about doing it is because they are so cute, and I like looking at all different kind of animals.”
Second-grader William Wentz, 8, said it took 24 days for the eggs to hatch.
“The egg gets laid from the chicken and then the chick opens up and the humidity makes the egg have some water coming inside, so the water gets wet,” William said. “On the 24th day, they start pecking so they can get oxygen from the top of the egg so then they can get out.”
Sonja Hayes is the 2017-18 Teacher of the Year at the school.