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How Do Eggs Become Chickens or Other Living Things?  [v2.0]

unit storyline

Other resources coming soon - anticipated release date : Jan 2019



This middle school unit on the structure of living organisms and their growth, development, and reproduction starts off with students encountering a series of news reports about the growing prevalence of backyard chicken coops across the country. Disagreements about why some chicken eggs hatch chicks and others don't, and what is going on inside an egg before it hatches, spark student questions and ideas for investigations geared toward figuring out where baby chickens come from and how they develop. 

The investigations that students pursue help them answer these questions as well as explain how an organism grows and builds new body structures and how the structure of the circulatory system and the structure of cells support the movement of water, food, and gas molecules that are needed in these processes. 

This unit illustrates how we can help students explore the role of cells in the growth and development of living organisms through pursuing questions and ideas for investigations raised by the students, rather than needing to teach them about the related science ideas before they plan and conduct such investigations. 

These ideas include... 

  • All living things are made up of cells, which is the smallest unit that can be alive.  

  • An organism may consist of one single cell (unicellular) or many and different types of cells (multicellular). 

  • Within cells, structures are responsible for particular functions and the cell membrane forms the boundary that controls what enters and leaves the cell. 

  • In multicellular organisms, the body is a system of multiple interacting subsystems. These subsystems are groups of cells working together to form tissues and organs that are specialized for particular body functions. 

  • New cells are made from old cells, through chemical reactions in the cell that use food to build new cell parts. 

  • Within individual organisms, food goes through a series of chemical reactions in which it is broken down and rearranged to form new molecules to support growth or release energy. 



The development of this storyline is sponsored, in part, by a Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) awarded to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and Northwestern University. V1.0 pilots are currently underway (spring 2018). Contact Barbara Hug <> for more details.