Thirty-nine teachers recently braved November snow and low temperatures to spend a day learning about animal agriculture in the ChickQuest workshop. This school program encourages 3rd graders to use science, engineering, and technology to investigate the life cycle of an embryonic chicken egg.

Participants went through the lessons and activities in the student book and left with everything needed to implement the program in their elementary classroom: an incubator, fertilized eggs, student science log books, teacher guide, and a kit of experiment supplies.

“Using agriculture to teach science concepts makes good sense,” said workshop leader Jeanne Gogolski. “Everyone eats—this helps students begin to understand the role that STEM plays in food production and in feeding 9 billion people. Animal agriculture and soybean farmers play an important role in sustainable production. We will need the best and brightest students in Ohio to address future challenges.”

Amy Smith and Heather O’Bannon from Westside Academy were thrilled to be a part of the training this year. Smith has hatched chicks in her kindergarten classroom for the past two years in an incubator made from a styrofoam cooler and other cobbled-together supplies. “We didn’t have everything that this kit has,” she noted. “We can do more experiments now that we have the supplies.” Smith said she’ll teach what she learned in the workshop to other teachers in her school. “We can set up an incubator in the kindergarten classroom and the first and second grade rooms.”

Director O’Bannon says she promotes hands-on STEM activities like ChickQuest in the school, rather than just looking at books. The materials provided at today’s workshop make that goal achievable. “Teachers need a kit. They don’t always have the time or initiative to pull it together on their own,” she noted. Both educators appreciated the support provided in the workshop, with supplies and people willing to provide follow-up assistance during the classroom implementation.

“In teaching kids in urban environments, it’s important for them to know about where food comes from,” said O’Bannon. Smith agreed, “They think it just appears in the refrigerator. We talk about the farmers and animals that are a part of the process.”

O’Bannon was enthusiastic about the scope of the ChickQuest curriculum. “This material crosses all subject areas,” O’Bannon pointed out. “It covers language arts, social studies, career building, and more.”

This workshop was sponsored through a grant from the Ohio Soybean Council and the United Soybean Board and in partnership with Franklin County Ohio State University Extension. Check for more workshops like this one!