“An egg, because it contains life, is the most perfect thing there is.”
EB White, “The Trumpet of the Swan”
Many years ago while trying to come up with new ways to teach children about animal migration, I wondered, “What activity could simulate sending a fragile, minimally protected creature on a long voyage fraught with hazards, with the ability to track its progress and ultimate fate?” Coincidentally, I had just decorated and mailed off some eggs to far-flung friends and family, and was anxiously awaiting news of their arrival. To my relief, the eggs survived, their journeys across the country creating a joyful web of long distance reconnections.
Thus the Great Egg Migration was hatched.
Every winter, Jemicy 4th graders research animals that migrate, learning about their geographical range, food needs, and breeding grounds. We examine eggs, test their shells, discussing the variables that could cause them to be weaker or stronger. Students decorate an egg with an image of their migrating animal and carefully blow out the contents leaving the eggshell intact.
Students then construct a box, package the egg (meeting a 4 oz. maximum weight requirement), and enclose a note to the recipient requesting an email response with photos when it arrives. Using maps, we plot possible routes and predict arrival times. We mail the packages from a local post office. And wait.
In the first few years of this project, we encouraged the migration of eggs overseas. We have records of eggs arriving safely in Australia and Japan, Uganda and Uruguay, Sicily and South Africa.
Some of the enthusiastic recipients kept the egg migrations going by carrying them to new destinations: into the Alps, on a Balkan cruise, across the English Channel. One lucky egg – the Mandarin Fish – traveled quite literally around the world and to every continent except Antarctica in the luggage of a student’s friend, who (we surmised) had the enviable job of previewing celebrity accommodations. For two years, Greg sent us travelogues, with descriptions of the view and photos of the egg enjoying the local sights.
Customs restrictions and soaring postal rates now prevent us from sending our eggs overseas, but even within the US, our eggs are managing to find adventures. This year, one egg mailed to a ski resort in Pennsylvania got to go skiing, while another egg migrated to California and then took a road trip up the coast.
Given the minimal packaging that the eggs receive for their travels, their success rate has been amazing. And everywhere the eggs migrate, they seem to bring extraordinary pleasure to the recipients, who proudly display them in their new locale.
Although most of our migrating eggs have enjoyed remarkably healthy journeys, one not-so-lucky traveler (a whale shark egg named Eggbert) that arrived in Thailand several years ago inspired a picture book featuring visits with his “cousins” to see elephants, a temple, and even a fish spa. The following letter that we received from Thailand remains unrivaled in the annals of the Great Egg Migration, evidence that even a cracked egg contains the life of a story, and can still be, as EB White noted, the most perfect thing there is.
“I must admit, Eggbert is a little worse for the wear – apparently he didn’t travel over easy and was bedeviled by all the air turbulence, but looking at the sunny side, at least he arrived in one major piece (and several smaller ones).
His arrival was a surprise but we scrambled and quickly hatched a plan to get a welcoming party together and, as you can see from the picture, quite a few of his Thai cousins came out to greet him, I believe it was over a dozen! At first his mood was a bit fowl but it soon brightened! He definitely had a great timer.
You may have thought Eggbert was a hard-boiled sort of fellow, but underneath that shell of his, he’s an old softie! I think I even saw his eyes get a bit runny. Don’t misunderstand me, he’s quite brave and definitely not a chicken. And smart! What an egghead! Not to mention funny: he cracked us all up with his many witty yolks!
For now, though, Eggbert simply needs a break. He’s a bit fried from all the activity and just wants to lay low. I assure you though that we will take wonderful care of him and show him all the sights. He really is a good egg.”