Thao Vy Phan
Every year, 6th graders at Stacey have hands on experience with the mummification process. All students on December 10 and 11 mummified chicken bones for their unit about the Ancient Egyptians. This activity actually lasts for eight weeks, so it started before the unit began.
Everyone was asked to donate 26 oz of salt and 50 cents for the payment of the chicken. The students mummify his/her chicken, which becomes their “pharaoh,” and create a sarcophagus for it. This entire activity is done outside for sanitary and health concerns.
The paired 6th graders first place the chicken leg in a ziploc bag, weigh it, and cover it with half of a container of salt. After this, students fill in their logs to record the weight, observations, and make a drawing. It is then left in the classroom unrefrigerated. Four weeks later, everyone repeats the process and updates his/her log.
After another 2-4 weeks pass, students remove the chicken legs for weighing and observations then take the legs to the bathroom to wash it with soap, pat it dry, and anoint it with oil back in class. With strips of cloth that are 6-8 feet long, students wrap them in a criss-cross fashion, tuck in charms to represent the amulets mummies have, and take them home and build a sarcophagus for it.
Two weeks later, the projects are due with an additional scroll of hieroglyphs that translates into a message for the afterlife and a death mask. It finally ends after students debrief their log data.
Mrs. Lies, a teacher who has been doing this activity for a decade, states, “The students LOVE [this project] and remember it for years to come. In the last few years I have felt guilty about using so much food… I also have given students who are vegan/vegetarian a plant option using an Anaheim pepper… The students see the progression of the dehydration process, and they get excited about the other work we are doing in class during the unit. Even though I feel embarrassed buying 90 chicken legs at a time, or a ton of salt at the store, I know the end result is that I will have made learning come alive.”