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Mummy hens laid to rest

Staff writer

The Marion Elementary sixth graders wrapped their mummified chickens in shrouds and laid them to rest in sarcophagus-styled shoeboxes before entombing them in the band room closet.

Thursday culminated the mummification of Cornish hens, which began at Halloween in Laura Baldwin’s class. Students had dried and rubbed cinnamon and nutmeg on their store-bought chickens before burying them in spice-rich graves inside zip-locked plastic bags.

Throughout the seven weeks, students occasionally plucked their “chicken pharaohs” from the plastic bags and weighed their well-preserved, albeit still stinky decomposing bodies.

“It smells like pumpkin pie,” Baldwin said, tempering her class’s insistence that the birds reeked and directing them toward more scientific observations.

“This is the part that makes teaching fun, seeing them excited,” Baldwin said. “They have continually asked over the weeks, ‘When are we going to do the mummies next?’”

Students on Thursday rubbed the birds clean of spices, weighed them, and began applying the shrouds, cut from a sheet and supplied by a parent. Smiles and expressions of concentration filled the science lab.

“Looks like a chicken in a diaper,” said Burton Harshman while applying the shrouds.

“We think the Egyptians had it easy,” said Tristan Williams, “because they could straighten the bodies out. The chicken is so stiff!”

“What do you call a mummified chicken?” asked MacKenzie Eden. “A chicken wrap.”

After the wrapping was completed, each small group of students decorated their sarcophagus with drawings of pyramids, crowns, hieroglyphics or fancy jewelry, otherwise called “bling-bling,” according to Maleyah Thomas.

When Baldwin informed her students that they had just 25 minutes left to finish their project, students scurried to make the final touches. After the holidays, students and Baldwin will conduct post-mortems of sorts, studying graphs of the birds’ body weight trend over the weeks and other details of the project.

“What you do in 25 minutes is how he will spend his eternal life,” Baldwin told the students. Baldwin also said that some of the birds would probably make reappearances for 4-H projects next semester. The rest of the chicken pharaohs at some point will make a discreet exit from the band room closet to be disposed of elsewhere for eternity, she added.

Last modified Dec. 23, 2014

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