On Tuesday I read Tillie Lays an Egg to about 80 kindergartners and first graders. Eggers, “the actress who plays Tillie” greeted the children with chirrups and clucks. She has quite the regal bearing. The kids were impressed. Part of my presentation entails talking about chickens, egg laying, what chickens eat, etc. There are a lot of pigeons in Cambridge, Mass., where the kids live, but not a lot of chickens! It’s interesting to me that I had to make the connection for them that both pigeons and chickens are birds. I asked who had seen the movie Chicken Run. Many raised their hands. I said, “In the movie, the chickens have teeth. Look at Tillie. She has a beak like all other birds. No teeth!” The children were incredulous.They watched her peck corn from my hand and observed how birds eat and how different it is than animals with lips and teeth.
What else do kids think about animals comes from animated shows? How little do they really know about the animals around them, especially the farm animals? Awhile back, there was a movie in which the Holstein cow, complete with an udder, was voiced by a male actor. Really! Ultimately this lack of understanding will impact the big picture, like farm policy. My solution? More chickens in the classroom.