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Blackie: Teaching Love and Understanding in Grief

Thursday, March 10th, 2016

The kids of Sunflower Sentry Garden learned an important lesson while grieving Blackie’s loss this week—active empathy. As they gathered in the coop to share their feelings, they noticed that Goldie and Brownie were depressed and huddled deep under the coop. Remember these hens sat with their sister during her final hours and guarded her body until one of their caretakers arrived to help.

The kids learned that Blackie, Goldie and Brownie had never spent a day apart since arriving in Ms. Siskin’s third-grade class as newly hatched chicks five years ago. They played, laid eggs, dug for worms, took dirt baths, sunned themselves and loved each other to the fullest. Now, Blackie was gone.

One student that helps feeds the chickens each morning became very worried and wrote a beautiful note of concern:

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Dear Goldie and Brownie,

I’m so worried about you girls. Is it because your sister died last night and you will not go out of the coop?
She took her card to the coop door and called for Goldie and Brownie to come out. Surprisingly, they did and she read it to them. The hens began clucking lightly and started eating a bit. The student was thrilled.

Earlier this week, one of the seventh graders that helped raise the three sister hens came to the coop and told the younger kids lots of sweet baby stories. We learned that Blackie was a happy girl that loved to run about, crawl up their arms and over their laps. Goldie was also very active but Brownie, true to form was very quiet.

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As the kids listened, they understood why Goldie and Brownie were so sad. They all made a special effort to cheer the girls up with loving words and bits of lettuce, tortillas and handfuls of scratch. Slowly, the hens came out into the playpen with Sunshine and Peanut. Before long, Goldie flew up into the wheelbarrow and sunned herself when we got a break from the rain.

The children of Sunflower Sentry Garden have learned that all living things are connected. They have distinctive personalities, love and grieve the loss of those they care about—just like humans.

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