To help students understand that organisms have basic needs that need to be met in order to survive.
This lesson is based on the book A Kid’s Guide to Keeping Chickens by Melissa Caughey, which is one of the winners of the 2016 SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books. SB&F, Science Books & Films, is a project of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The book introduces students to animal husbandry by providing a thorough guide to raising chickens.
By late elementary school, students should understand that animals have a great variety of body plans, with different overall structures and arrangements of internal parts to perform the basic operations of making or finding food, deriving energy and materials from it, synthesizing new materials, and reproducing. (Science for All Americans, p. 60.)
According to the National Science Education Standards, "the idea that organisms depend on their environment (including other organisms in some cases) is not well developed in young children. In grades K-4, the focus should be on establishing the primary association of organisms with their environments and the secondary ideas of dependence on various aspects of the environment and of behaviors that help various animals survive." (National Science Education Standards, p. 128.) The book emphasizes the role of human caretakers in providing for all the necessities on which chickens depend.
The book introduces students to chicken development and the role of chickens in providing food for humans (eggs), as well as nutrients for plants (compost). In this lesson, students will work either independently or in small groups to answer questions from one of the book's chapters using the Keeping Chickens student sheet. Each chapter focuses on the basic needs of chickens, including their requirements for food, water, nutrients, health, and protection from predators, pests, and disease.
To assess student knowledge and to share information learned, students will report on their chapter to the class.
Ideas in this lesson are also related to concepts found in these Common Core State Standards:
Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers.
Determine the main idea of a text; recount the key details and explain how they support the main idea.
Use information gained from illustrations (e.g., maps, photographs) and the words in a text to demonstrate understanding of the text (e.g., where, when, why, and how key events occur).
Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
Determine the main idea of a text and explain how it is supported by key details; summarize the text.
Explain events, procedures, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text, including what happened and why, based on specific information in the text.
Interpret information presented visually, orally, or quantitatively (e.g., in charts, graphs, diagrams, time lines, animations, or interactive elements on Web pages) and explain how the information contributes to an understanding of the text in which it appears.
- Quote accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
Determine two or more main ideas of a text and explain how they are supported by key details; summarize the text.
If possible, you should get one or more classroom copies of A Kid's Guide to Keeping Chickens by Melissa Caughey.
Either in school before beginning the lesson or at home, students should use their Keeping Chickens student esheet to watch a series of four online videos that focus on the life cycle of chickens:
- Chicken Embryo Development shows an animation on the development of a chick inside an egg
- Baby Chicks Hatching shows chickens hatching from eggs
- Tilly's Nest - The Chicks Outing shows chicks right after they've hatched
- Family Fun: Raising Backyard Chicks Together is a brief introduction to handling chickens with author Melissa Caughey
Students should answer the questions on the Chicken Life Cycle student sheet. Ask students the questions from the student sheet to stimulate their thinking about the life cycle of chickens and how it compares to their pets or humans and to introduce them to the idea of animal husbandry. The discussion should be open-ended and simply serve as motivation for their deeper research into raising chickens.
In this part of the lesson, divide your class into small groups of students. Assign one chapter to each group so that all the chapters are covered. Students should read one chapter of the book to investigate an aspect of caring for chickens. Each chapter focuses on the basic needs of chickens, including their requirements for food, water, nutrients, health, and protection from predators, pests, and disease. After studying their chapter, students should work either independently or with their small group to answer questions on the Keeping Chickens student sheet. You can find answers to the questions on the Keeping Chickens teacher sheet.
Some of the topics that students will explore are why people raise chickens, the differences between different breeds of chickens, how to buy them, their early development, how to provide shelter for chickens, how to feed them, about the eggs, chicken diseases and health care, handling chickens, and chickens in the garden.
To assess their understanding of their chapter, students should present the information they learned, using their student sheet answers, to the rest of the class. Each student or group of students should be able to answer questions from their classmates on their topic. Each group of students could also take one aspect of their chicken study and write about it and illustrate it, and then all the segments could be bound together into a classroom book.
Consider developing a detailed rubric for assessment of the presentations. There are several resources on the Internet that describe the use of rubrics in the K-12 classroom, a few of which are highlighted here.
To learn more about rubrics in general, see Make Room for Rubrics on the Scholastic site.
For specific examples of rubrics, more information, and links to other resources, check out these sites:
- Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything: Assessment and Rubrics
- Assessment: Creating Rubrics
- Rubrics for Web Lessons
Finally, you can go to Teacher Rubric Makers on the Teachnology.com website to create your own rubrics. At this site, you can fill out forms to create rubrics suitable for your particular students and then print them instantly from your computer.
You can extend the ideas in this lesson by guiding your students through these Science NetLinks lessons:
A Kid's Guide to Keeping Chickens includes a number of hands-on "DIY" activities for students to explore, including making treats for chickens; candling eggs; building a chicken fort, a "chunnel," a brooder, a jungle gym, and herbal wading pool; growing mealworms; experimenting with eggs; and creating a botanical bug spray. An entire chapter is devoted to chicken crafts, such as blowing out and decorating eggs, creating various items out of egg cartons, and drawing and photographing chickens. The last chapter provides nine recipes to make with eggs.
Various websites about chickens for students to explore include:
- 10 Great Reasons to Have Chickens
- Discovery/Science Channel's "How It's Made: Eggs" video
- Backyard Chickens, which includes a Learning Center tab covering many of the same topics as A Kid's Guide to Keeping Chickens