L’ecole de Chukar

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.

Angus and Peat were frequent visitors to the classroom
Some biography
Peat pointing the geographical origin of alectoris chukar (Angus is more interested in the turkey fan)
They learned how the GPS stuff works, although the dogs sought affection instead of birds (they must have realized we were within city limits, and so ignored the hundreds of quail running all over the area)
Taking turns at loading shells (this was cleared by the district superintendent and county sheriff)
Zoe cooks the curry while Leslie practices her two-step
We cooked up a delicious curry (see the separate recipe post)
Everyone enjoyed the food, and many went back for seconds. Only one nickel-plated pellet was found (thanks, Dale!).
Kids like food (Quinn, to my right, prefers ham, obviously)

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.

The aroma attracted a number of students who weren’t in the enrichment course, and we had plenty to share with them, too

11 Replies to “L’ecole de Chukar”

  1. This is what education at Cambridge High School is all about. Making connections with kids 6th thru 12th grade, developing relationships, connecting academics with real world and having a little fun along the way. Thank you

  2. Thank you and Leslie for doing this!! There are too many places in America where you would never have gotten approval from the school system for any of the items shared with the young students.

  3. What a great experience for the students. My high school biology teacher was an avid hunter/outdoorsman and shared his passion as well. So many great lessons.We had about 50 student in our small HS. Thank you for doing this for our youth!

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