Man vs. Chicken: A Battle in the Name of Science

Preparation, preparation, preparation. That’s the key to good lesson. And that is why I sat down to a plate full of buffalo wings, tackled a pile of poultry parts, all in the name of science.

I had pile of probably 15 wings, it may not sound like much but they add up quickly. The first 10 went down easily, but then I started to feel like one of those guys from the Food Network. The ones who have to eat a 10 pound burger and a pound of fries in an hour to get a free t-shirt saying “I Beat the Mondo Burger” or something. For the last five wings I slowed down, but I pushed myself, dug deep. “It’s for science, for the students” was my mantra. Finally, the last wing finish, cleaned to the bone. I’ll admit it was a tough job, but I was willing to do it.

Now, some of you may ask: Is this science?

Heck Yeah!

The start of the second semester marks the beginning on my spring semester Honors Human Biology course. This year it is composed of 22 students, all with varying levels of excitement and engagement in the content, but none of them could expect what we would do in class Thursday, nor could they know earlier this week I put so much preparation into cooking, eating, and cleaning buffalo wings.

I have observed while teaching Human Biology student can easily make connections to the content because we are learning about their body and how it works. However, I’m no Doctor Frankenstein so its not so easy actually see human organs and tissues. We have to find alternatives to using human specimens to explore the concepts we are learning about. This is where the chicken wings come in.

As part of the unit on the skeletal system we spend time discussing different types of fractures, how they can occur, and what the healing process is for a bone. Though it would be truly a learning experience for students to participate in risky behavior like jumping from heights, slamming doors on their hands, or falling off of bikes or ATVs; I’m sure parents would not approve of, or enjoy having to pick their kids up at the hospital after getting casts. And I know Elwood saying to his mom: “But look, its a spiral fracture, see…!” or “I worked so hard Mom, I was the only one in class to get a compound fracture,” would certainly not let me off the hook for promoting such behavior.

So, instead we suited up. Protective eye gear on, nitrile gloves on,  assorted pliers, wrenches, bricks and  tin snips in hand.

Using this variety of tools the students manipulated how they twisted, bent, or crushed the bone, making a hypothesis about what type of fracture will result. They then sketch, analyze and compare the different types of fractures.

3 years ago I designed this lab using chicken bones to model how different fractures occur, what they look like, and how they differ from each other. It went over with great success. Who knew destruction could be such a great learning experience. My students continue to thoroughly enjoy it. So, each year since I have been tweaking and conducting this lab as a way to understand why different fractures occur, and what they look like.

Now, believe me, not all labs and activities can have such “full-filling” or tasty preparation, but the time put into such hands on, application based,  inquiry activities is well worth it, and the benefit surely outweighs the time commitment. I know there is some cliche out there that life is 80% preparation, 20% action or something like that; the same can be said about teaching. Putting the time into preparing a well designed, interactive and engaging learning experience is key to increasing the successful learning of students.

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53 responses

  1. Pingback: Man vs. Chicken: A Battle in the Name of Science (via Is This Science?) « PAVAN MICKEY

  2. What some people will do in the name of science…

    😉

    Great post. So I must ask: Did this idea come to you after devouring wings and beer at the local sports bar, or did you learn it from someone else?

  3. I wish I had you as a science teacher. I know the Bio program at my school used to dissolve McDonald’s into a nasty goo, separating it into bun, fry, and burger puree, and test said goo for lipids, proteins, carbs, etc. Needless to say, this was cancelled after several students threw up. Chicken wings are much preferable.

  4. Great idea. In biomechanics I try and do something similar with levers. I use wooden poles.
    I guess I’m going to have to look around and try and source some larger bones as tying weights on chicken bones might be a fiddly option.
    I’m thinking lamb, but I’m not doing 15 of them in one sitting.

  5. I wish I could’ve done that in biology class!
    I do have one question that I’ve always pondered… When we use bones that have been removed, cleaned, and dried, do they still break in the same fashion that they would within the living body? Many, including myself, tend to imagine bone as brittle and bleached-white whereas if I recall it is actually quite a bit more elastic when it is living. Also, multiple forces from muscle attachment would make a difference.
    I suppose I am delving too deep into what is supposed to be a more fun, conceptual exercise, though.

    • That was part of the write up for the lab, to analyze how our class attempts to model bone fractures falls shorts of real life. Yes, you are right bone is a flexible living organ much different than that which we see out of the body. This point as well as your comment about muscles changing/influencing how the bone would fracture were the main ideas students came up with during their analysis.

      Overall, it was a fun way to make connections between types of fractures we’ve read about and actually seeing a bone after a fracture.

  6. Cool. Did parents object to your feeding the kids? It sounds like you are a very dedicated and imaginative teacher – I would totally double your salary!

  7. Wow it’s a great entry and you’re a very engaging instructor. I’m a BS in Biology student, recently graduated last April 1, 2011. 🙂 I remember after having our lessons about muscles or it may have been the skeletal system (Comparative Anatomy of Vertebrates class), we were eating at McDonald’s and while eating our chickens, we were all blurting out which muscles we were eating and also the bones. It was a very fun way of learning and instilling the information in our minds! 🙂

  8. This is brilliant! Very creative!

    I teach ESL overseas and we use a “Total Physical Response” approach to teaching the language. Love the creativity in your post, your students have an advantage having such a creative teacher.

  9. I’m sure your battle to devour all 15 chicken wings to the bone for educational purposes is greatly appreciated by your students! Now… does beef ribs fracture in the same fashion as chicken bones? 🙂

  10. Hi,
    Congratulations on being freshly pressed. Would love it to happen to me too. This is deja vu time ….back to our school days where for us it was frogs.

  11. This was a great post….thanks for sharing. thinking back…if my teachers had taken the time to create more engaging experiences around the content of the class…I might have been a more engaged student..lol…I had an interest but as a teenager it needed a nudge..the likes of which a good “program” would have been very beneficial.

  12. Teachers with your kind of creativity are the ones people remember later in their life. Thank you for being one of those special people. Great post, although you made me hungry for wings!!

    Congrats on being FP!

  13. Pingback: 人与鸡的战斗: 一场以科学为名义的战争 | 单色熊

  14. Great idea. In biomechanics I try and do something similar with levers. I use wooden poles.
    I guess I’m going to have to look around and try and source some larger bones as tying weights on chicken bones might be a fiddly option.
    I’m thinking lamb, but I’m not doing 15 of them in one sitting.

  15. Pingback: Man vs. Chicken: A Battle in the Name of Science (via Is This Science?) « Gem's Blog

  16. man vs chicken,.. that’s a classic and long battle for centuries!
    but all of those two survive until now to continue the battle,… not like tyranosaurus, pternodon, mammoth, we are survive coz for when man and chicken battling we still help each other to survive.

    man help the population of chicken increase when chicken help man provide foods.

    find another battle between man vs civet on unique mutualism
    http://luwakcoffe.wordpress.com/luwak-coffee-unique-history/

  17. you are very good!
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  18. That was part of the write up for the lab, to analyze how our class attempts to model bone fractures falls shorts of real life. Yes, you are right bone is a flexible living organ much different than that which we see out of the body. This point as well as your comment about muscles changing/influencing how the bone would fracture were the main ideas students came up with during their analysis.

    Overall, it was a fun way to make connections between types of fractures we’ve read about and actually seeing a bone after a fracture.

  19. Pingback: 人与鸡的战斗: 一场以科学为名义的战争 : 单色熊

  20. Pingback: Man vs. Chicken 2.0 « Is This Science?

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