Middle school students are just beginning to sort themselves into social groups--jocks, artists, band kids. But in rural Arkansas, FoodCorps member Jackie Billhymer sees her school's chicken house as the great equalizer.
"We needed to move the coop, so we sent students to catch chickens by their feet," Billhymer says. Under her watchful eye, kids corraled the birds. It wasn't as easy as some had thought. "The students were breaking down social barriers without really noticing. They had a new sense of empowerment, having worked together to figure something out."
The chickens provide biology lessons, eggs for the cafeteria, and natural fertilizer for the garden, but more important they help build bridges.
"The kids are experiencing teamwork with classmates they might not have hung out with before. It's all healthy--the food and the friendships," Billhymer says.
Jackie Billhymer is a FoodCorps Service Member serving through the Delta Garden Study at Arkansas Children’s Hospital Research Institute at Highland Middle School in Highland, Arkansas.