Project helps teach third grade students about backyard chickens

Two Herrick Park Elementary School third grade classes are getting a lesson in backyard chickens while incorporating multiple facets of their curriculum into a single, all-encompassing project. Herrick Park Elementary School third grade teacher Alexandra Hoeft took a workshop over the summer about project-based learning, which got her thinking about how to incorporate the lesson into her classroom curriculum. Hoeft and her teaching partner Sarah Abbot, third grade teacher at the school as well, are working together on the project. “It’s kind of a big undertaking,” Hoeft said. “More so than just teaching subject by subject and keeping them individualized. I’m hoping the students are going to get a lot out of it and it will be something they remember.” Hoeft said one aspect of their curriculum looks at simple life cycles, which led her to chickens, and backyard chickens specifically, as voters will decide whether to allow them or not in the community this November. Hoeft added that the goal of project-based learning is to have a project revolving around a real-world issue or something that’s meaningful to students. The backyard chicken project not only incorporates science, but also social studies, reading and grammar, and writing. Hoeft said the goal at the end of the project is to have students write editorials stating their opinion on backyard chickens. Opinion and persuasive writing is part of the grade’s curriculum. Students will not only have to state and defend their opinion, but acknowledge the opposing view as well. “They’re writing for an audience,” said Hoeft. “They’re writing for the actual world.”Once Hoeft decided backyard chickens was the project the class would be doing, she reached out to backyard chicken advocate Lee Walsh and Tecumseh Veterinary Hospital vet Laurie Tritt.Walsh was at the school Friday, Oct. 2, to introduce students to backyard chickens and get them excited about the unit. Both Walsh and Tritt will be at the school next week, with Walsh presenting the pro side of the debate while Tritt presents the con side and informs students about the chickens’ wellbeing. Hoeft said the Friday event went very well. “I only had them [the students] for a month and you never know how excitable they’ll get. Last week when the chickens were here, I had one student say, ‘I’ve never seen a chicken before.’ That just blew me away because when you think about all the products we eat from chickens, he’s probably seen a chicken before but he hadn’t seen one in that type of setting. We live in sort of a rural community and to not have that connection to the farms and the people that may live right next door with chickens — that surprised me.” Students were tasked with observing the chickens, thinking about them and coming up with questions they want answered about chickens. “It was really fun for them,” Hoeft added.This week, Hoeft will be laying the groundwork for backyard chickens, with students beginning to learn about opinion and persuasive writing late this week. Before the project concludes, students will be taste-testing hardboiled eggs — comparing store-bought eggs to backyard chicken eggs. “I’m just excited to get started with it and really jump in and dive into the material,” Hoeft said.

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