For many children, learning about embryonic chick development is their first experience in biology. It’s a wonderful way to help them understand the world around them and connect them to the magical qualities of nature. Oftentimes, knowledge facilitators try to achieve this through chick hatching projects, where fertilized bird eggs are bought and placed in classroom incubators to be hatched within three weeks. Although usually done with good intentions, there are several reasons we want to help schools end this practice, the most obvious being the catastrophic toll it takes on the well-being of the birds and the pressure it places on the animal sanctuary and shelter community who often end up taking in abandoned or surrendered hatching project survivors.
Fortunately, many sanctuaries are in a unique position to offer school groups an alternative and more compassionate learning opportunity around embryonic chick development and farmed birds! In this lesson plan, we incorporate fun-filled safe activities and resources grounded in detailed in-person observation of sanctuary bird residents to help learners come closer to a better understanding of embryonic chick development, as well as the experiences, feelings, needs, and complex social lives of farmed birds. The ultimate goals of this lesson are to encourage school groups to transition away from chick hatching projects that encourage the view that farmed birds are disposable objects and to adopt kinder learning experiences that invite children and educators to recognize farmed birds as sentient beings who deserve respect.
As with every educational program we create, please leave room to edit, modify, and adapt the activities, questions, and materials based on your sanctuary and audience’s specific needs. Built-in flexibility is an important aspect of effective educational design. Please also check out the introduction to our first Early Elementary Lesson Plan for important things to consider as you develop and implement any educational program at your sanctuary (i.e. language use, modifications for disabilities, common core learning standards, and more).
Below, you will find a form to fill out to receive the chick hatching project alternative lesson plan for elementary-age children. It can be used by sanctuary educators and representatives as a stand-alone lesson or as part of a longer-term program. We’ve also included a sample letter for sanctuaries interested in encouraging local schools to transition away from chick hatching projects and adopt kinder learning opportunities, such as ones they can experience at your sanctuary!
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