WAYNE — Wayne Middle School began the Chicken Tenders club just last year, but now nearly half of the school’s students are members.
At Wayne Middle, 175 students tend to chickens by collecting eggs, feeding them and even cleaning coops in the Chicken Tenders club, advisor and Wayne interventionist Samantha Stephens said.
Stephens said she was happy so many students are involved and she believes the Chicken Tenders is a group where every child can join and have a role.
“There has to be somewhere where every kid can fit in, and every single kid fits in here,” she said. “There’s not one thing that should stop a child from being in this club, everybody’s welcome.”
Stephens said the club began with a running joke, where she and Wayne Principal Lori Staley would make chicken noises with each other while making announcements. When students heard of a chicken club, Stephens said there were too many students interested and the club needed to be formed.
Last year, the students hatched and raised their chickens, and now they care for the animals daily.
With so many members, the students have rotations to care for the school’s 11 chickens. Even in the winter, the chickens have been sent home with students so that in the event of a snow or ice storm, someone is able to care for them.
Stephens said the students have developed their own council, voted in officers and conduct weekly meetings.
Many of the students said they enjoyed learning about the chickens and doing so with their friends, but Council Facilitator Kinley Thompson said her favorite part is learning information she hopes to use as she gets older.
“We’re learning about the agriculture and hopefully being able to apply the knowledge in my life down the road,” she said.
Staley said the group is a great opportunity for students for similar reasons, as they are learning to work with a team and some are gaining leadership experience while part of the Chicken Tenders.
“They’re learning some real life collaborative work skills, and that’s huge,” she said. “You can learn it in the classroom, but you actually get to get out into the real world and apply it, so this is teaching that.”
Now, they are expanding beyond chickens to add the Green Beans, who will work with the school’s new greenhouse.
Stephens said staff and Jason Ekers, Wayne County Schools agriculture mentor and Guyan Conservation supervisor, have installed the framework of the greenhouse and are working to prepare it for future greens.
A decision has not been made on what will be grown in the greenhouse, but because the plan is to sell the items grown, Stephens said she did not want to compete with Wayne High School and their sales.
“We want our kids to go to (Wayne High School) so we would never take anything away from the high school agriculture, their greenhouse or anything,” she said.
In addition to teamwork and leadership, the students are also learning about finance, as they have to keep track of how much the current costs for chicken feed and care are as well as how much to sell eggs for.
As the Green Beans begin with their planting, the students will have to track of soil, seeds and other necessary costs all before selling their own products.
Moving forward, the Chicken Tenders hope to keep expanding. Council members expressed the desire to add more animals to their flock. Stephens said they are still discussing adding animals down the road, and future students may see rabbits, a goat or even a cow.
Fruit trees have also been planted, so fruit picking may be available in a few years, Stephens said.
In addition to exploring options with more animals, Vice President Eli Staley said with the progress already made at school, his goal for the clubs is to promote personal and community development.
“My favorite’s how much development we’ve made in our community over the years,” he said. “We’re teaching people how to farm and care for chickens, and maybe someday when we grow in the future, someone will grow up and be a head in the society.”