Our school offers an enrichment program for grades 6 through 12, which consists of two-week blocks of varied “courses” allowing teachers to do things with kids that the “normal” curriculum doesn’t typically allow. Since we began this program a couple years ago, students have been able to learn how to create striking landscape paintings, make and use catapults, hit a fastball off of (and right at) the grumpy English teacher, meditate, give neck massages, make slime, execute a perfect pick-and-roll, drive a golf ball, win at all kinds of board games, bomb (or not) at standup, and much much more. For the past several weeks, I’ve had the great pleasure of teaching kids about upland bird hunting, Chukar Culture style.
Some of my high school students already know about Chukar Culture, but since I don’t teach middle school (anymore), it’s been a treat being able to expose some of the younger students to some of the elements of our extra-curricular pursuits. They learned about habitat, partridge history, endemic versus introduced species, bird dogs and training, hunting strategy, shotguns, cleaning and preparing birds, and even reloading. The culmination of the enrichment course was cooking and eating the dusky grouse, Hungarian partridge, and chukar that they all cleaned.
I’m kicking myself for lacking the presence of mind to take photos of the bird-cleaning session. That was easily the most spectacular part of the course: I showed them the two ways I clean birds, and then had them dive right in, but not before I emphasized that these amazing creatures gave their lives (or, actually, that Leslie and I took them) for us to nourish ourselves with good, clean animal protein. We looked in the crops of the dusky grouse, Hungarian partridge, and chukar, and made inferences on their respective diets and habitats. The counters soon were covered in feathers, heads, feet, wings, and carcasses. A couple kids got birds with shot-perforated intestines and learned the ugly beauty of that odor, and what to do with meat that partly stinks. A couple of gagging sounds were heard. After we finished with the 12 partridges, we’d bagged at least 7 pounds of clean breast meat and at least several pounds of leg-thigh combinations. Only one or two of the students had cleaned birds before, so I’m sure the experience was eye-opening for most of them. At least one student said cleaning the birds was her favorite part of the two-week enrichment, mainly because she’d never thought about the anatomy of a bird and it was cool to see what was inside it. Since one of my goals as a teacher is to expand students’ perspectives on our world, I’ll take that right there as a win.