Published on 06/27/19

Avian Academy increases Georgia teachers’ understanding of Georgia’s most popular bird — the chicken

By Merritt Melancon

Chickens are a vital part of Georgia’s economy and the state’s agricultural heritage. And thanks to a University of Georgia program for teachers, chickens will be helping middle school and high school teachers educate students in Georgia classrooms.

About 30 Georgia agriculture and life sciences teachers from more than a dozen counties across the state came together at the UGA Department of Poultry Science this summer to learn how to incorporate chickens into their lesson plans — both in traditional agricultural education and STEM classrooms.

The program — Avian Academy — has brought middle and high school teachers together with poultry science faculty each summer for almost a decade. Over the last two or three years, organizers have actively recruited life sciences teachers from across the state in addition to agriculture teachers.

“We have a lot of poultry in our county,” said Samantha Chang, a biology teacher from Jefferson High School in Jackson County. “This workshop has really equipped me to use chickens as examples of some of the topics we cover in biology class and have students be able to understand those concepts because it’s something they’re familiar with.”

Chang was at the 2019 Avian Academy with Jefferson High School agriculture teacher Melissa Webb, who attended the 2018 academy last summer. Webb convinced all of Jefferson High School’s life sciences teachers to join her. Having the same familiarity with chickens means they’ll be able to link concepts to one another’s classes more easily, Webb said.

As part of the workshop, teachers learned how to handle live birds and receive a crash course in the economics of poultry farming, the physiology of poultry, the history of poultry breeding, careers in poultry science, reproduction and egg laying, and food safety.

Bridgette Rains, a first -ear seventh grade life sciences teacher in Bartow County, came to the workshop looking for inspiration for the upcoming school year.

“I’ll be teaching in a more rural area, and I’ll definitely be using a lot of the lesson plans and techniques they presented,” Rains said. “I had never thought of using chickens before but they really are the easiest way to demonstrate what they’re learning: embryology and the life cycle. I mean, in 21 days you go from an egg to a chicken.”

The three-day workshop equips the teachers with new skills and lesson plans that they can take back to their classrooms when students head back to school in August.

“I’m so proud of our department for being able to partner with teachers from throughout Georgia. Avian Academy is a great program that builds bridges between our faculty, college and university resources while obtaining priceless feedback from the teachers. Getting students involved in tangible ways of learning life sciences concepts is critical, and having a practical application helps demonstrate future career paths,” said Todd Applegate, department head for poultry science in the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

For more information about other outreach programs from the UGA Department of Poultry Science, visit

Merritt Melancon is a public relations manager with UGA's Terry College of Business and previously served as a public relations coordinator for the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and UGA Extension.

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