Category Archives: caregiver

A (not so) Brief History of All Season’s Chickens With an Unexpected Twist

Posted October 8, 2015

by Amanda Janquart

The Original Miss Chick

The Original Miss Chick


This story begins long before I arrived at All Seasons, yet it intertwined with my life.  Our school’s original Miss Chick was hatched in an incubator in my colleague’s classroom in 2001. Natalie’s class was run with an infectious energy and she was the perfect person to introduce young children to the joys of having a pet.  Many children fell hard for Miss Chick as she didn’t disappoint with her funny antics.  When Natalie left her teaching position, Miss Chick went into retirement.  When All Seasons opened in 2009, Natalie knew it would be an ideal place for her beloved chicken to live out her golden years.  And years it was, for Miss Chick lived through 2013 – she was 12 1/2!

There are spaces in the heart that only animals can fill, and her death left a hole at All Seasons. The school was ready to welcome new chicks but didn’t know where to begin. Amy went on a fact-finding mission to determine which breed would be best. Speaking with resident Kenny Fritz, a former farmer, she gleaned insightful information from someone who had raised chickens. Two kinds stood out as docile breeds and egg layers; Buff Orpingtons and Cochins. That’s how the new Miss Chick (the second) and Fritzie (named after Grandpa Kenny) came to join us.

Fritzie and Miss Chick II

Fritzie and Miss Chick II


They were raised in the classroom from chicks with children participating in their care. Steve, the building maintenance man, built them an tall indoor kennel, and Amy’s dad, Dave, built nesting boxes. Everyone yelped with joy when they laid their first eggs. The pair joined us on the playground, and the residents watched them through their windows. Robyn, a cook at Inver Glen, treated the chicks to choice pieces of watermelon. When a hawk took Miss Chick, the devastation spread beyond the preschool walls; the entire Inver Glen community came together to support each other.

After the hawk took Miss Chick we were fearful to let Fritzie roam the playground, but we knew she needed that freedom. Teachers and children kept a close eye on her when they brought her outside. When the school year ended, Fritzie was invited to join my flock of chickens at home for ‘chicken summer camp.’ She could forage in ways one can only do with the protection of a flock. Best of all, she would bring a friend from camp back to All Seasons in the fall! After a rocky introduction to my flock, Fritzie found her place on the outskirts of the group.

Spa Day!

Spa Day!


My own kids favored Fritzie, and often toted her around on their adventures in the woods or singled her out as needing a bath. She grew fat and fluffy. A few times she disappeared for more than a day and we’d go searching. She was so tricky, sneaking into the massive dark barn and staying quiet so we couldn’t find her.  She was quick to make nesting spots and was loathe to leave her eggs, but I needed to find her eggs before they got rotten.

The first day of school, just before Fritzie was to return to the preschool,  I wanted one more chance to find her eggs so planned to follow her. My husband hid in the barn. As we opened the coop, I called out to him, “Ready? Here she comes!” It turned out to be one of the few days she didn’t head straight to the barn. We all went off to our first day of school, leaving Fritzie pecking under the oaks with the others. That evening when she didn’t come back we didn’t worry, knowing she had pulled this trick before. But a week went by, then another. We assumed the worst. We answered children’s questions with honesty. “We don’t know where she is.”

Without Fritzie, her summer pal was still expected back at All Seasons. Mary fit the bill. Another outsider, Mary had overcome extreme sickness as a chick. From the beginning, it was apparent something was not right. She would often miss her food, pecking air instead. We assumed she was blind, which led to her name, Mary Ingalls. My children hand-fed her scrambled eggs and dipped her beak in water. Worrying that she would be picked on, she had her own sleeping quarters. As she got older, she stayed close to the coop, and welcomed human companionship. While there was some concern about Mary joining All Seasons (Did we want a chicken that might not have a good chance of survival? Could we handle another loss?) it made sense. She would become a part of a community that values all abilities.

Mary’s gentle demeanor has been a gift to our community;  she has converted some seniors with poultry fears and has allowed children to stroke her feathers, patiently standing still. She is easy to catch and is comfortable sun bathing as children dig in the sand near her. Robyn from the kitchen again brings chicken treats down and she bought her  a low perch to make it easier for Mary to roost. Mary is filling a need.

Wanting to know more about Mary’s vision, we invited vet techs from Inver Grove Animal Hospital to visit. We learned that Mary is indeed blind in at least one eye, and most likely blind in the other (she didn’t blink or flinch when a finger was flicked). The vet techs helped the children understand what it might be like to not see, having them close their eyes and listen They made it clear that it is OK to be blind. Mary can sense even small movements in the air around her and her hearing is particularly sharp.  Talking to Mary before stroking her will avoid startling her.  The techs showed us how to pet her from neck to tail, avoiding her vulnerable belly area.  Chickens make about thirty different sounds – she actually talks to us.  Her gentle coo means she is happy.

Our visitors also shared more about chickens:
– Their first eggs (laid between 4-8 months) are much smaller than eggs laid by adults.
– They eat rocks, store them in their crops and use them like we use teeth, to grind up food.
– Their favorite color appears to be red.
– Their combs turns from pink to bright red when they lay an egg.
– We should avoid giving Mary salty foods, and stick to healthy fruits and vegetables.

Are you still with me because HERE IS THE TWIST!
Right in the middle of writing this blog post, I kid you not, Fritzie came back!! My husband heard a commotion in the garage – it was a chicken mob! Under the pile was an orange chicken that looked like Fritzie! In a state of shock, he ran inside calling for me.  I ran out to see. We could see Pumpkin (our other orange chicken), but not Fritzie. “I swear she was just here.”  Searching the garage, we found her tucked into a cobwebbed corner, sitting stock-still. She had stayed away almost a month and had become a stranger, a threat to the flock, so they pecked her. She was stinky, skinny, and scared. We kept her isolated in the upper coop for the night. My daughter, Mimi, who has a gift with animals, gave Fritzie a spa treatment. It may take Fritzie a while to trust people. Again, All Seasons will be the perfect place for her to receive gentle care, in a community that understands how to meet each other’s needs. We have not finished our crazy chicken history yet.


On the Topic of a Furry Friend

Posted December 15, 2014

By Sarah Kern


The Toddlers meet Piggy


I must preface this blog by saying I am an animal lover. If my husband had a nickel for every time I asked him for a new dog or called him from a pet adoption event, he’d be a rich man. You may have noticed that I’m not alone in this at All Seasons. We are all animal lovers. After our beloved Miss Chick passed in November of last year, many tears were shed. You also may have noticed her absence was filled with not one, but two chickens.

We lost our beloved Rex the day after the last day of school in June. Rex had been ill for months, but he seemingly held on so our students wouldn’t have to grieve the loss of another pet before the year’s end. And, perhaps you’ve heard, his absence was filled with not one, but two guinea pigs.  Now the Winter Room has almost as many pets as it does toddlers. But there is a method to our madness!

Every preschool teacher has certain standards that she holds highest in her classroom. For me, what’s most important is that my students are nurturing and kind. Beyond modeling the kind of behavior I expect from my students and encouraging caring interactions between children, having pets provides another way to grow these skills.

Research shows that having classroom pets encourages children to be nurturing. With an animal, there tends to be a swift natural consequence for behavior that is too rough, startling or unkind. A pet might run away, hide, or even nip when threatened. Children quickly learn that if they want to spend time with a pet, they must be careful and they must be kind. Isn’t that the message we want them to learn about people, too?

One of my favorite things I read about the benefits of pets in a classroom is that while having a pet benefits all children, it is especially important to young boys, who often don’t have the chance to practice the nurturing skills girls do in our society.


Quietly observing Piggy and Oink

In addition, having a pet teaches responsibility. We have already talked about how important it is that we feed and water the guinea pigs and keep their home safe and clean. Judging by how well the toddlers remember to feed our Betta and Danio fish, I don’t think our piggies will be neglected.

There’s one more awesome benefit to having pets in the classroom. Research show that pets and humans can actually become friends. Guinea pigs love human contact, and these interactions can lead to deep bonds. Human-animal friendships strengthen social skills and increase self-esteem in young children.

So stop by and visit our new friends in the Winter Room! I think you’ll like them.


Raising Kids Who Are Kind

Posted September 26, 2014

Raising Kids Who Are Kind IMG_2214

Harvard’s Graduate School of Education’s Making Caring Common Project “aims to strengthen the abilities of parents and caretakers, schools, and community members to develop caring, ethical children. (They’re) working to make these values live and breathe in the day-to-day interactions of every school and home.”  At All Seasons, we focus on cultivating a community of kindness and caring. We live in a culture that values achievement over caring, and sometimes it feels like we are swimming upstream when we choose to be kind over being powerful. Amongst all the research, one thing is clear: Kindness and empathy must be taught. Making Caring Common presents five strategies to raise moral, caring children: 1. Make caring for others a priority. It’s important for parents and teachers to model this behavior. We also must hold children to high ethical standards, including staying true to their word and honoring commitments, even when it’s hard. Children should also be expected to be respectful towards adults, even when tired, angry, or distracted. Phrases like, “The most important thing is that you are kind” can really hammer this home. 2. Provide opportunities for children to practice caring and gratitude. Research shows that people who regularly practice gratitude are more likely to be compassionate, forgiving and helpful. To implement this, provide regular opportunities to express gratitude, such as at dinnertime or at bedtime. Don’t reward children for every act of helpfulness, such as helping around the house or helping a friend – these things should be expected. Reward uncommon acts of kindness.  3. Expand your child’s circle of concern. Children care about their own small circle of friends and family; the goal is to help them care about someone outside of their own circle as well. To help children achieve this, expect them to be polite and friendly with all people, even waiters or the mail carrier. At All Seasons, we expand children’s circles of concern through our relationships with the seniors. Ask your children about their favorite senior, and encourage acts of kindness. 4. Model kindness and moral behavior. Children learn their values by watching adults who are important to them. Think through dilemmas out loud with your children so they can hear how you problem solve with kindness. You can also model caring by volunteering with your child. 5. Guide children in managing hard feelings. We need children to know that it is okay to feel angry, sad, or frustrated. We also need to teach them how to cope with these feelings. Practice helping your child calm down and express his or her feelings when upset, and model your own coping skills for tough feelings when appropriate. It is important to remember that “Children are not born simply good or bad and we should never give up on them. They need adults who will help them become caring, respectful, and responsible for their communities at every stage of their childhood.” Source:

A Story for Caregivers…

Posted September 22, 2014

The children are back, and it feels so great to have them here!  The children are getting accustomed to the rhythms of our days.  Most know what to do when they arrive at school, though may need reminders.  Those who initially resisted our beginning-of-the-day duties are reluctantly participating.  “I don’t want to wash my hands… go potty… put on my jacket…”  “That’s just what we do at school” is usually a satisfactory answer.

Our morning routine of visiting the grandmas and grandpas will soon become second nature.  Already, most of the children walk into Willow Cove (the name for memory care) and begin making their way around the circle to shake hands.  It is so touching to see these little ones greeting and receiving such warm welcomes from the grandmas and grandpas.  For some children, shaking hands and making eye contact comes very naturally.  For others, it is truly a brand new skill that is no different than zipping jackets and will require a lot of repetition.

Speaking of repetition and at the risk of sounding trite, there is a story called The Butterfly’s Struggle that many of you know, but is worth re-reading.  As a parent and an educator, my natural inclination is to help.  Helping is at the core of who I am and at the core of what I have done professionally for over twenty years.

Last week, as Sarah played a game called “Who’s Missing” with the children, one little boy got stuck guessing which of his friends was hiding out of sight.  After a few moments of silence, I couldn’t stand it any longer and gave him a big clue.  Sarah said, “Thank you, Amy, for figuring that out for us.”  I catch myself (or my colleagues catch me) doing this several times each week.  All I know is that I can’t stand to watch anyone struggle with anything for long.  As this story illustrates so beautifully, sometimes standing back and allowing the struggle to occur is the only way for one to make it successfully to the next stage.


A man found a cocoon of a butterfly.  One day a small opening appeared.  He sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to squeeze its body through the tiny hole.  Then it stopped, as though it was unable to go any further.

The man decided to help the butterfly.  He took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bits of cocoon.  The butterfly emerged easily, but its body was swollen and wings were shriveled.

The man continued to watch it, expecting that any minute the wings would enlarge and expand enough to support the body.  Neither happened.  In face, the butterfly spend the rest of its life crawling around.  It was never able to fly.

What the man, in his kindness and haste, did not understand was that the struggle required by the butterfly to get through the opening was a way of forcing the fluid from its body into the wings so that it would be ready for flight.


Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our lives.  Going through life with no obstacles cripples us.  We will never be as strong as we could have been without struggle.  Without struggle, we can never fly.