What does a turkey, not in a photo and not on your aunty’s serving dish, really look like? Third graders in one Jefferson Elementary School class found out the day before Thanksgiving, Wednesday Nov. 27.
Amber Stout has been a teacher for 17 years. Fourteen of those years have been at Jefferson, all in third grade. While Stout has only been bringing in live turkeys for the past two years now, it always seems to be a hit with the young students.
“It brings the lesson to life,” Stout said. “They actually get to see the bird, and it’s kinda fun this time of year, around the holiday season.”
Stout feels it is important for people to make the connection to where their food comes from as well.
“I live on a farm. Grew up on a farm. Any time I can bring aspects of the farm to the classroom it makes the lesson so much more interesting, and the kids are so much more engaged.”
The turkey is named Tillie. Stout thinks the bird is around two years old. Tillie sat silently watching the class as Stout went through a slide show on turkeys, their parts and things that make them different as well as similar to other animals.
It was a multi-pronged attack on Stout’s part. With Tillie in her cage looking out at the students and the students looking back, the kids, when not following along with the lesson and slideshow, watched one of their classmates be transformed into a turkey. To document their lesson, each student had turkey-feather pens made by Stout.
The lesson was to answer the question, “what adaptations do turkeys have to help them survive?” They learned science while making use of their vocabulary words from a list on their lessons and worked on their penmanship all at the same time.
“I kind of like to come by and integrate the subjects,” Stout said. “It’s a science lesson, but we are doing a lot of writing that goes along with it. I made them all turkey-feather pens yesterday. Writing becomes so much more interesting when you can write with a feather pen.”
“The quality of work I get from them when they get to use a feather pen is even higher quality work than I would on just a normal day,” Stout said. “It’s kinda fun.”
The turkey was a sport. Student Kaydence Horsley stood at the front of the class, and, as the different parts of the turkey were discussed, another piece to her transformation was carefully added by Stout.
“It was funny,” Horsley said. “Cause I had to walk around really silly.” Horsley was instructed to strut like a turkey when the topic of strut came up near the end. She did a few bobs and weaves as she made a small circle strutting in front of the class.
Both turkeys exhibited mellow demeanors, but the class agreed with Stout that Horsley did an excellent strut and would make a good turkey.
It was the first time Horsley had seen a real live turkey. “Amazing,” Horsley said. “Cause their head is very interesting. It has big bumps on it.”
Not everyone was seeing a turkey for the first time. Bailee Taft said she had two turkeys at her farm before. Taft likes turkeys, but her favorite animal on her farm is horses. She did learn something new about turkeys despite having had them around. Taft learned they have spurs on the backs of their legs.
After the lesson, each row of students was allowed to come up and inspect the turkey. Some petted her. Some picked up kernels or corn and held them for Tillie to nibble. When Tillie would go to peck a kernel from a brave set of fingers or hands, there were laughs and smiles all around.
Tillie seemed okay with it too, cooing and clucking quietly after the kids went to recess.