The Giant Egg and a Science Lesson

Yesterday I found the biggest egg I have ever seen, in one of the nest boxes of our backyard chicken coop.  I was planning to make eggs for lunch today, so I called the boys to see when I cracked the egg because I was sure it would have 2 yolks.  And it did, but it must have been inside the hen too long because there was opaque white material in the egg as well. It really did look like two eggs seamlessly fused together, from the outside.  And when I first cracked it, there were two yolks, but one was fragile and broke before I could take a picture of it.  We didn’t use the egg, it  just looked too strange so I was afraid it might be spoiled.  Anyhow, my 7 1/2 year old started asking questions about chickens laying eggs, and then about how babies grow and how they get out of their mother’s body.

I’m not very proficient with unschooling, I’m more of a fan of curriculum and workbooks, but this was the perfect opportunity to give it a try, so I went with it.  I found a copy of Hello Baby! that my mother gave him when his little brother was born.  The book explains, among other things,  the basics of how the baby develops with diagrams and some short descriptions.  We looked at his old ultrasound pictures. We looked at pictures from my baby shower so he could see my belly when I was pregnant with him.  I showed him this animation which shows simulations of how the baby develops, and I showed him this medical animation of childbirth to answer the “how does the baby get out” question.  We talked about the uterus, the placenta, the amniotic sac, the umbilical cord, and the birth canal.

My son wanted to know about what happens to the umbilical cord and I explained, even found a photograph of a baby with a cord clamp still in place, but I haven’t yet been able to find a video of the pulsating umbilical cord or a cord being clamped and cut.  It do want him to know that the cord should not be cut until it stops pulsating, even though many medical professionals clamp the cord immediately after birth.  A friend on FB shared a link to her blog, which shows a beautiful video of a home waterbirth.  The video is made with a collection of still photographs.  It is rather discreet as far as birth videos go, as the water blurs the images slightly when the baby emerges.  I feel comfortable allowing my son to view this, it is really well done.  There are even pictures of the new baby’s siblings admiring the newborn boy as well as pictures of the family together after the birth.

But back to what started our discussion, we also looked at photographs of developing chick embryos. We discussed how developing mammals are different from developing birds, and how they are similar.  I explained how the yolk sac functions much like the placenta, to nourish the growing chick.  I told him that the chick has tiny blood vessels that travel from its body to the inside surface of the shell to provide oxygen, something that we noticed when one of our own backyard flock hatched out some chicks last summer.  For a good explanation of how the eggs are formed inside a female chicken, we found factsheets on the anatomy and physiology of the reproductive tract of a female chicken.  I highly recommend this source, as there are some great photographs of the ovaries with developing eggs and also a the oviduct and vent.  These are from dissection, and they are well labeled.

I was very pleased with our first experience using an unschooling approach.  I’m impressed with the resources that are available on the internet.  Only one site that I used to teach today was completely new to me, but I was grateful that I was able to pull together the resources needed for our study very quickly.  Including items that we had around the house such as the photographs, book, and ultrasound pictures, worked very well for us too.  My son was very interested and asking well thought out questions.  I highly recommend trying out this approach, even if you are a curriculum lover like I am.

Here are two photos of our June backyard hatching, the youngest members of our flock.  They are now 7 months old and laying their own eggs.  Enjoy!