Early on in elementary school, students begin to study science by looking at the world around them. Students study life cycles starting in first grade and look at a handful of animals to understand the concept of growth and development. A common example for teaching growth and development is to look at the life cycle of a chicken, and there are a few different ways you can achieve this in your classroom or with your child at home.
Teaching students about the life cycle of a chicken has to reinforce basic science concepts surrounding growth and development. There are two main educational objectives when teaching life cycles: to understand the parts of the life cycle (birth, growth, reproduction and death) and to understand reproduction in plants and animals. These concepts are illustrated by studying different living things, but the chicken teaches both the parts of the life cycle and reproduction by showing how a chicken starts as an egg and grows into an animal.
Scholastic provides printable life cycle activities for elementary grades and offers a page with vocabulary and images showing the life cycle of a chicken. The vocabulary expected of elementary students includes “wattle, fluffy down, feathers, comb, eggtooth, roost, preen and cheep,” and the handout shows chickens at four stages in the life cycle: hatching, hatched, adolescent and fully grown -- as roosters. Having students label each picture reinforces the vocabulary for the unit while teaching the stages of the chicken’s life.
Apart from the Scholastic handouts, you can use illustrations and images within your classroom to show the life cycle of a chicken. While it’s possible to use actual eggs or arrange for live birds to come to your class, photographs downloaded from the Internet can also demonstrate the life cycle. Children should be able to identify eggs, hatching, hatchlings or chicks, and grown birds. Photos are especially helpful in demonstrating how all eggs look fairly similar but that chickens, once grown, have different physical characteristics. Ask students to describe the differences in chicks and chickens to practice description and observation.
Purdue University’s Scientific Literacy Project is a grant-based program in partnership with the U.S. Department of Education that supplies schools with materials to enhance scientific study. In 2009, the program offered fertilized chicken eggs and incubators to classrooms for students to hatch their own chickens. While the program may not be available to your school, the handout materials from the program fully illustrate, in detail, the life cycle of a chicken -- including a day-by-day breakdown of its growth within the egg. The teaching package is available for free, but you’ll have to check with your administrators to see if the Scientific Literacy Project serves your school district.
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