Yes, chickens. Those pecking birds that don’t fly for some reason. The ones that give us eggs and meat. There is a whole lot of science going on with those chickens. Here are science lessons using chickens as the common theme among them. Prepare to be amazed.
1. Chickens can teach us about food science and science-based policy making
Why chickens? Why chicken farming? This subject brings up the topics of food policy, food science and food technology research.
Kids should discuss, research and think about questions like:
- Why do we eat so much white meat? What makes it better than red meat? Do we need all that protein?
- How did the chicken become our top choice of poultry around the world? For a family-friendly, fun watch on the many types of birds and their differing tastes, this comedy video of a “Blind Bird Taste Challenge” can show kids that there are in fact more edible birds than chickens (even more than turkeys and ducks).So that brings up the question: why chickens?
Then, see this great article by the Smithsonian Magazine for more research to delve into with your students. It’s about how chickens got so popular around the world, and throughout history.
- How is our increasing consumption of chickens going to affect farming practices? And in turn, how does that affect the end consumer?
- Is it morally ok to modify chicken growth for our benefit? What if we alter their DNA to produce drugs that save humans? Or should we care about the chickens’ quality of life? And (not related to food specifically) is cock fighting ok for entertainment and money earning? Or should it be illegal?
Chickens can teach about protecting endangered species
Another subject to get into that can relate to chickens is the matter of endangered species. Believe it or not, there is a species of chicken, called the Attwater’s prairie chicken that is endangered. And it hasn’t been an easy or straightforward ‘fight’ to keep them thriving – creating conflict among oil companies, government and wildlife concerns.
This subject can teach kids about the way multiple interests can affect policymakers, even when it comes to saving a chicken.
2. Teaching chicken science can tell us about our own body muscles
So, you know how at the dinner table, people fight over the dark meat or the white meat of the chicken (or turkey)? It may seem like a food choice, but in fact, dark and white meat can teach kids about our own muscles! How we use our muscles can affect what becomes ‘dark meat’ and ‘white meat’ in our biological and chemical makeup. So this makes yet another science lesson using chickens.
Here is a video you can use to start your lesson planning on this subject:
The Science Of Dark vs. White Meat (see the description of the video for more resources)
3. Teaching chicken science can tell us what feathers are for, if not for flying
Dinosaurs had feathers! Seriously!
But did they fly? Not really. And neither do all modern day birds (like chickens). So then, what are feathers for?
As it turns out, feathers do more than help with flying. They can help with temperature regulation, for example. Plus, there are many kinds of feathers that perform different functions. This biology lesson can teach kids a thing or two to impress parents at the dinner table!
4. Teaching kids about DNA and the science of chickens can explain why Jurassic Park couldn’t happen in real life
But did you know chickens are being used to try to grow dinosaur parts? And, one man, who inspired a Jurassic Park character, is trying to reverse-engineer a dinosaur using DNA science – from, yes you guessed it: a chicken! Talk about teaching science using chickens at its best!
The following educational video would be suitable to show kids when teaching DNA science using chickens:
5. Chicken egg lesson and teaching the science of fertilization explains why not all eggs hatch
Here’s a golden question kids may have at the breakfast table: why aren’t all eggs hatching into baby chickens?
Now’s your chance to teach the science of fertilization. As it turns out, not all eggs turn into animals! To understand why, you may need to know what is inside an egg. This resource helps with that:
Now, how do we get an egg that WILL hatch?
Well, first you need a rooster. But there is more to it. This resource can help when you teach how chicken eggs get fertilized:
Another thing you’ll need is incubation…and supplies. This is a website devoted to helping kids hatch chicken eggs. This can be a fun learning project. It can accompany science lessons on animals, biology and reproduction in an applicable way.
6. The science of the chicken and egg: which came first?
After all the points above, we know what you must be asking: which came first, the chicken or the egg? We’ll let you have fun watching this video by A.S.A.P. Science to come to the conclusion of that answer!
As you can see, chickens can be a diverse subject for teachers to use in lesson planning. History, food science, biology, aviation, DNA, palaeontology, fertilization…and the list goes on (we didn’t even cover circadian rhythm with the rooster crow!). They can also bring about the idea that there are many aspects and ways of looking at something we take for granted. Who knew we could learn so much from chickens!