Charitable Chickens
Posted 05/21/2014 10:22AM

Now entering its 45thyear, Lamplighter Layers, a chicken-raising and egg-selling corporation, is operated by students in fourth grade at The Lamplighter School. The program allows the School to integrate entrepreneurship into its curriculum by providing students the opportunity to apply academic skills to hands-on operation of a business. This past school year, students sold more than 5500 eggs and donated most of the profit to charity. The gift was divided between the World Wildlife Fund, UNICEF, and the Lamplighter Land Fund.

According to fourth grade teacher, Marty Melton, “Since students are the stock holders in the business, they have the final say on philanthropy.” At a ceremony held at Lamplighter last week, representatives accepted checks of $548 each from the students which represented more than 87% of their revenues. Accepting were parent of a Lamplighter Alumna and UNICEF volunteer, Gowri Sharma; WWF volunteer, Lamplighter parent, and the School’s Perot Museum of Nature and Science Coordinator, Gretchen Pollom; and Dr. Joan Hill, Lamplighter Head of School, who accepted the check for the Lamplighter Land Fund.

Through the entrepreneurial Layers program, students gain valuable first-hand lessons in economics, politics, farming, business, and marketing. Officers are elected at the beginning of the school year and include a president, vice president, treasurer, secretary, and an historian. Crew leaders are also elected and are responsible for overseeing teams that care for the chickens and collect and sell their eggs during carpool on Fridays. From writing reports to calculating profits and stock values, Layers provides students opportunities to apply academic skills to a hands-on exploration of a business.

The program was established under the direction of a Lamplighter father and trustee, Judge Robert Porter, and has always been set up as a corporation. Monthly meetings are held using Robert’s Rules, which demonstrate how to run corporate meetings. According to Melton, reports are given to the entire class about the current value of the stock, income, expenses, sales, egg production, and what they decide to do with the end of the year dividends. There are six crews, each with an elected crew leader. Each crew handles all aspects of the chickens’ care for a week at a time. The leaders assign such jobs as feeding, egg collecting, washing and filling water buckets, egg cleaning and preparation, recording data on computers, and sales and marketing to members of the crew.

In order to calculate income, students must also account for their expenses, which include a monthly invoice to the school which covers feed and use of the barn and chicken coop area. “It is a valuable lesson in understanding the components of running a business,” cited Dr. Hill.

The chickens produce green, brown, and white eggs. “This provides excellent opportunities to ask math questions about percentages, fractions, and probability,” notes fourth grade teacher Kathey Beddow. “Some years the flocks have been very finicky. For example they won’t lay eggs when it is really cold outside. The kids are learning about the effects of weather and the environment on egg production,” she added.

Faculty members are available as resources, but the operation of the business is the responsibility of the students. “Several of the most valuable lessons involve cooperation, communication, respect, and responsibility,” explained Melton. “These are skills you need in life to be successful both personally and professionally.”

Layers is a favorite memory for many Lamplighter graduates. “I was a crew leader and remember that it was difficult at first to assign jobs to my crew members. Eventually, I understood that just as they needed to perform their tasks, leading the crew was mine,” recalled Anne Yarbrough, current Lamplighter second grade teacher and former student. “The experience helped me comprehend how I would apply what I was currently learning to what I would need in the real world. Finally, I understood why I needed to be able to do things like division or give a report.”

Kiersten Stockham, mother of fourth grader Peydinn, president of Lamplighter Layers, was impressed by the program. “What a perfect example of an initiative that is focused on laying the proper foundations while “still allowing children to have a good time.” She believes Lamplighter has inspired its students: “Those kids don't just think they can do something…they know and believe that they can do anything.” Stockham continued, “Lamplighter children will succeed wherever they go; the School has taught them to be leaders.”

When asked about Peydinn's favorite part of Layers, she stated simply, "It's all about the chickens!" But maybe as important, Paydinn announced to the Lamplighter community at senior graduation, that the Layers presidency was just a stepping stone, “Someday I plan to run for President of the United States!” she exclaimed.

“Where else could a 10-year old be elected president of a corporation and then aspire to be President of the United States?” Stockham asked. “It’s simply amazing. And Peydinn really does believe she will be the first woman President!”

Preparation for 2014-15 Layers started several weeks ago with the birth of a new brood of chicks. Last week third graders, who will run the business next school year as fourth graders, weighed and measured the chicks. Then the students moved them to their coop inside the on-campus barn where, over the summer, they will grow and start producing their own eggs for next year’s Lamplighter Layers program.