No ducking out on this assignment at New Lenox school
BY SUSAN DEMAR LAFFERTY firstname.lastname@example.org May 27, 2014 7:10PM
Ducklings run from Martino Junior High School in New Lenox to catch up with their mother, who led them to a nearby pond. | Susan DeMar Lafferty~Sun Times Media
Updated: June 29, 2014 6:40AM
On a warm holiday weekend, when it was quiet and no one was around, a mother duck had her eight tiny babies hatch in the courtyard at Martino Junior High School in New Lenox.
By Tuesday afternoon, a team of seventh-graders armed with cardboard had created a path to make way for the ducklings as the mama duck led her newborns into the closest pond behind the school.
Only one egg failed to hatch, and one straggler had to be carried to the water’s edge, where its mother quickly found it and ushered it into its group of siblings.
The annual duck walk is a tradition at the New Lenox school, one that students and staff look forward to all year as they watch the mother ducks sit on their nests in the enclosed courtyard adjoining the school’s cafeteria.
Students, who like to dine in the courtyard during warmer weather, were kept out of the area while the mamas nested.
“We’ve been doing this for as long as the school’s been open,” Principal Bonnie Groen said.
A sign affixed to a tree named this duck-crossing area after the school’s first principal, Del Bitter.
Each spring, and again in the summer, the two mama ducks who have made their nests amid the hostas and irises hatch their eggs. Since there is no pond in the courtyard, students and staff try to guide the babies to the nearest source of water — a detention pond behind the school.
“They are adorable,” seventh-grader Morgan Markus said.
“They are really cute but that little one was tough,” said Lily Zopf, referring to the one duckling left behind that had to be carried to the water.
For most students, it was the “coolest assignment ever,” some said — and one that lasted less than 15 minutes.
The mama duck who hatched her ducklings a couple of weeks ago didn’t cooperate, Groen said, instead flying out of the courtyard, leaving students to coax the babies along without her guidance.
She expects both mama ducks will return to hatch another batch of eggs in the summer. But with students on summer break, she may be recruiting a few volunteers to guide the ducklings to the water.