Purina Animal Nutrition recently donated to schools across the country. Instead of the standard notebooks and pencils, the company donated chicken feed. This donation was part of Purina’s Coop to School Network, which celebrates an emerging “schoolyard chicken” movement.
Kristin Horvath, backyard flock associate marketing manager with Purina Animal Nutrition, says backyard chickens are a new and exciting part of school curriculum. Schoolyard flocks are used in active learning programs where students receive hands-on education. In addition to being fun for the classroom, backyard chickens help educate students on responsibility, biology, animal care and from where their food comes.
“We’ve had a lot of great conversations with teachers who have added backyard chickens to their school curriculum. These teachers are reinventing the way that lessons are taught; their students are learning by doing,” Horvath said. “We looked for a way to combine our love for chickens with schoolyard coops and our Coop to School Network was born.”
Here’s how the 2016 donation process worked: Purina Poultry Facebook fans shared their chicken-keeping stories by creating simple videos through the “Chick Flick by Purina” app. For each chick flick shared, Purina donated 5 pounds of chicken feed to their coop to school network.
“The most heartwarming part of this program has been hearing from teachers across the country. These teachers are doing incredible things and making a difference each day,” Horvath said. “We were so moved by these stories that we decided to double our school network and expand our donation.”
Schools, listed alphabetically by state, receiving Purina Premium Poultry Feed include:
- Rosamond Elementary School – Rosamond, California
- Heritage Elementary School – Highlands Ranch, Colorado
- The Alva School – Alva, Florida
- Lawton Elementary LESA Garden – Oviedo, Florida.
- River Ridge – Evans, Georgia
- Oscar Mayer Magnet School – Chicago, Illinois
- Complete High School Maize – Maize, Kansas
- St. Paul’s School – Brooklandville, Maryland
- Northeastern High School – Elizabeth City, North Carolina
- Taqwa Community Farm – Bronx, New York
- Garden of Happiness – Bronx, New York
- The William T Harris School – New York, New York
- St. James School – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Discovery School – Lancaster, South Carolina
- The Episcopal School of Knoxville – Knoxville, Tennessee
- West Allis Central High School – West Allis, Wisconsin
Schoolyard chickens in action
The team at Purina says this social media campaign was powerful for two reasons: One, current backyard chicken enthusiasts proudly shared their stories, and two, educators nationwide were given a platform to discuss their hands-on learning programs.
Schoolyard chicken coops are not just for rural schools. Inner-city schools, such as Chicago and New York City, are including chickens as a part of curriculum to provide students with hands-on experience with agriculture. For many classrooms, education involving backyard chickens goes far beyond the textbook.
“Students learn about compassion, the value of life, responsibility and making informed buying decisions,” said Heidi Albin, a science teacher at Complete High School Maize in Kansas. “At our alternative school, many of our students can be seen cuddling with little chicks and caring for them.”
“The impact has been powerful,” adds third-grade educator Jennifer Musick at Rosamond Elementary School in California. “Kids from all grade levels flock to the garden first thing in the morning to let the chickens out. It has taught our students respect for their surroundings, along with responsibility, concern and empathy for other living creatures.”
Nancy Dimitriades, a science teacher at St. Paul’s School in Brooklandville, Maryland, explains that the surrounding community also benefits from having a schoolyard coop.
“We have an educational organization here at St. Paul’s called Bridges that brings motivated Baltimore City students to our campus and offers enriching, educational experiences to them,” Dimitriades said. “Bridges’ fourth and fifth grade students have built dust baths for the chickens, chicken swings and boredom busters.”
Teachers explain their school flocks allow students of diverse backgrounds and learning styles to connect on a deeper level with the education they are receiving.
“The other day a boy with special needs met our school’s chickens for the first time,” explained Jennifer Ferrell of Lawton Elementary in Oviedo, Florida. “He pet Caramel, our Buff Orpington, and his whole demeanor changed. He went from restless and anxious to calm and focused. He was so proud of himself.”
“Our coop was recently damaged when Hurricane Matthew came through,” Ferrell added. “The donated feed from Purina will be a huge help in the recovery.”
To learn more about raising backyard chickens, visit www.purinamills.com/chicken-feed or connect with Purina Poultry on Facebook or Pinterest. If your school has a backyard chicken coop, sign up for Purina’s Coop to School Network to connect with fellow educators and receive tips.