With Easter and spring, teachers and home schooling parents may have a hard time keeping their students minds on learning. Baby chicks symbolize renewal and spring, so why not use them to make some interesting lesson plans? An excellent classroom project is, of course, incubating eggs. Just don’t count those chickens before they hatch! But even if you can’t bring chickens into the classroom your students may be able to do some of the interesting activities listed below.
Learning about incubation and growth
An incubation project requires an incubator, fertile eggs and 3 weeks of your time. Have the students do lots of reading about how to raise, or brood, baby chicks. Have them decide what type of chicks to buy, determine how big the brooder should be, learn to read a thermometer, plan the costs involved, and make decisions on what to do with the chicks when they become too big for the brooder. A great book to read on this subject is Raising Chickens for Dummies by Kimberley Willis and Rob Ludlow.
Students can chart the growth of the chicks by weighing and measuring them, and note when they get feathers and what type of feathers they get. Older students may want to compare the growth of different types of chickens, such as Cornish cross meat types and a fancy variety, such as Cochins. If you can buy sexed chickens of separate colors of the same variety, you can measure the difference in male and female growth and note behavioral differences. With a digital camera, a pictorial record can also be kept.
Reading and writing
Children may be asked to observe chickens, and draw pictures and write a book about what they see. They may be given a camera to take photos of chickens and then write a story to go with the pictures. Or you may want to show children an egg and ask them to write a story about what happens inside an egg as a chick grows. If you can actually incubate eggs and open them at various stages it would make an excellent science and writing lesson.
Many fables, poems, sayings, and biblical stories involve chickens. Have children read some of these, and then either explain the moral of the story or write their own chicken stories. Children may also do research to collect as many sayings or stories as they can.
You can probably think of dozens of chicken related sayings such as “bad egg”, “hen pecked”, “go to bed with the chickens”, etc. Ask your students to find as many chicken sayings as they can and explain how they may have gotten started. You may want to explore whether these sayings are actually fair to chickens and if they reflect real chicken behavior.
Older students may be asked to write about animal rights as they pertain to meat chickens, the production of eggs, or the cruelty of cockfighting. Or you may choose to ask them about symbolism and the metaphorical use of chickens in the literature and art of different cultures.
Following are some examples of chicken literature:
* A Chick Hatches by J.Cole
* Chickens Aren’t the Only Ones by R. Heller
* Why the Chicken Crossed the Road by D. Macaulay
* Little Red Hen by P. Galdone (several versions by other authors exist as well)
* The Wolf’s Chicken Stew by K. Keiko
* The Chicken Dance by J. Couvillon
More science lessons
Children can dye eggs with natural dyes, with a science lesson on dye plants and colors included. For how to make natural dyes, see the article on this site by going here. If you have a way to collect white chicken feathers natural dyes can also be used to color them and then the children could use them in crafts. Wash feathers before use by putting them in a pillow case and tying it shut, then running it through the gentle cycle on your washer. There may be someone in the community who can teach children to make “flies” for fishing, and dyed or natural colored feathers can be used.
Here are some interesting science experiments for older children to try.
* Try putting eggs in different solutions for several days and observe what happens to them. Measure and weigh each raw egg before beginning. The raw eggs should be totally covered with your solutions in a glass container like an old, clean jar. Note the size and weight of each egg before placing it in a jar. Solutions you may want to try include vinegar and various types of drinks like soft drinks, sports drinks, and juices. Also use clear water as a control substance. The students should observe whether the eggs absorb any liquid through their shells, whether the look or size of the eggs changes, and whether the weight of the eggs changes.
* Devise packaging in an attempt to keep raw eggs from breaking. Experiment by wrapping eggs in various packaging methods and then dropping them from the same height. Record what happens. Kids love this challenge.
You certainly won’t be classified as a dumb cluck if you use chickens to engage learning in the classroom.