Fifth graders have the opportunity for exploring science and ancient history by mummifying chickens. The unusual activity involves learning about the ancient Egyptian art of mummification, and also learning the science of drying and preserving the chicken bodies while designing sarcophagi.
At the Haverford Friends Day School, history teacher Matt Jackson, aka “Teacher Matt” has been working with his fifth grade class since the start of the school year on the unit covering ancient Egypt. In a sense, learning the process of mummifying chickens has made history come a live for the students, or at least “undead”.
“I was looking for a way to make history more kinesthetic for students,” said Jackson. “In the beginning of the year, I had them do a learning styles inventory to see how best they learn and most of my students are either visual or kinesthetic learners, very few of us are truly auditory learners. So I wanted to give them something they can actually do instead of listening to me talk.”
The mummification process involved immersing the chickens in salt and baking soda until they were dried out. Then they were coated with spices and wrapped in gauze, achieving a truly mummified appearance. Students learned that the chickens did not stink as a result of the absence of moisture and bacteria. The entire process took 70 days.