For 20 years, students at Eisenhower Elementary School in Hopkins, Minnesota have enjoyed the tradition of watching a mother duck lead her ducklings through their school and out into the world so that they could learn to swim on their own.
“C’mon momma,” Betty Johnson, one of the school’s kindergarten teachers, said, cooed to the mother mallard. “You know the way.”
Each year, students stand on either side of the school’s hallway as the mother duck and her babies walk down the hallway, out an exterior door, and into a pond behind the school.
A mallard’s eggs will hatch after about 28 days of being incubated, according to rspb.org.
This takes about 24 hours. The ducklings will stay in their nest with mom for about 10 hours to dry off and get used to walking. Once they can walk, mom will lead them to water.
“If the nest is some way from water, this first journey can be the most perilous time in a duckling’s life. Where a nest is high up (up a tree or on a balcony) the birds must first jump to the ground. Being very light and covered in down they usually come to no harm during the fall,” the website states.
“If the landing area is very hard and there is cause for concern, placing something soft like straw or a blanket underneath will cushion the fall. Next, they will have a long and potentially hazardous walk before they can reach water.”
This year’s momma duck had 10 ducklings.
“As soon as they’re born, I’m like ‘OK, everyone stay away! Everyone be careful! Everyone look out,” the school’s media specialist Jeff Shepherd told KMBC News.
The tradition started 20 years ago when a mallard flew into the school’s enclosed courtyard. She figured it was a safe place to lay her eggs.
However, she didn’t have a way to get the ducklings back out since they weren’t old enough to fly.
Someone from the school decided to open the courtyard door and let the mother duck and her ducklings in so that they would be safe from hawks and other predators.
Now the ritual takes place every year and the whole school joins in to see the ducklings and their momma off.
And the kids just love it!
The hallway gets filled with tiny whispers, as to not scare the ducklings, of “They’re so cute,” and “Oh, my gosh” as the ducklings quack their way down the hall.
“It’s kind of bittersweet because we love watching them grow up, but this is where they belong,” Johnson told Kare 11 of seeing the ducks out of the courtyard and into the pond.
Not only do the ducklings and their mom inspire the students, but they’ve also inspired a book.
Eisenhower Elementary School parents Brad and Laurie Gilmore collaborated on a newly released book titled “Ducks in a Row… Here We Go!”
Brad wrote the book while Laurie illustrated it.
“It’s really a metaphor for the school preparing the kids for where they are going next,” Brad Gilmore explained.
Learn more about this sweet story in the video below.
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