Before Dwight David Eisenhower became America’s 34th President, he commanded the country’s military. And at the Minnesota elementary school that bears Ike’s name? A mama duck who takes her marching orders seriously is doing him proud—and continuing a 20-year tradition.
Two decades ago, a female mallard decided nesting in the school’s enclosed courtyard was a good idea—only she’d made one strategic error: there was no direct access to the pond nearby.
As it turned out, the only way to get her fledgeling offspring—old enough to float but not yet able to fly—where they needed to be was to go through the school.
Someone inside figured that out too and opened the door.
To everyone’s delight, Mama Duck quickly marshaled her feathered brigade and paraded the brood directly through the school corridors to an exit on the pond side of the building. And so an annual rite of passage was born.
With an office overlooking the courtyard, library media specialist Jeff Shepherd enthusiastically volunteers for guard duty as each new batch of baby ducks arrives.
“And as soon as they’re born, ‘I’m like, okay, everyone stay away; everyone be careful; everyone look out,’” the aptly-named Shepherd told KARE 11 News.
This year, as awed students and teachers looked on from a respectful distance, Mama Duck led her 10 little troopers from the safety of the nest to the freedom of the big, wide world.
“It’s kind of bittersweet because we love watching them grow up, but this is where they belong,” Kindergarten teacher Betty Johnson told KARE.
The passage of the ducks has become such a beloved ritual at Eisenhower, parents Brad and Laurie Gilmore created a children’s book to commemorate the annual event. Proceeds from their Ducks in a Row… Here We Go! will be used to keep the school courtyard in top shape for future generations of nestlings.
An eggcellent idea, don’t you think?