Human mothers aren’t the only ones who form close bonds with their babies. Learn how cows, pigs, chickens and sheep love and nurture their offspring.
Year Level: 1–2
Learning area: Science
General capabilities: Critical and creative thinking; ethical understanding; literacy
Lesson duration: 95 minutes
Your child will:
- understand that animals reproduce, grow and change
- learn about how different animal mothers care for their offspring
- understand the different stages in the life cycle of cows, pigs, chickens and sheep
- draw comparisons between how certain animals like cows, pigs, chickens and sheep reproduce in a more natural setting versus an intensive production farm.
- ACSSU030: Living things grow, change and have offspring similar to themselves
- ACSSU211: Living things live in different places where their needs are met (exploring what happens when habitats change and some living things can no longer have their needs met)
Tip: Your child can use the worksheets for this lesson independently.
Scroll to the top to download this lesson’s material:
- ‘Match Mum to Bub’ worksheet
- ‘Meet My Mother’ worksheet
- ‘My Life Story’ worksheet
- ‘Animal Lifecycles’ handout
Discussion: What qualities make a good mother?
Part A: Brainstorm Activity
Brainstorm different qualities that make a good mother. Your child can make a list and draw pictures as examples.
Possible answers may include: caring, loving, nurturing, patient, feeds me, cleans me, plays with me, sings to me, protects me from danger, makes me feel safe, helps me learn how to do things.
Ask your child if they think other animals can be good mothers too. Why/why not?
Tip: Younger children may need extra help to read the passages completely.
Vocabulary: offspring, life cycle, suckle, weaned
Part B: Animal Offspring
Complete the ‘Match Mum to Bub’ worksheet, where your child will match the animal mother to its offspring.
Optional: Choose an animal from the worksheet and find out how long each stage of its life cycle takes. Draw a chart. You can use the ‘Animal Lifecycles’ handout for reference.
Read the passages on the ‘Meet My Mother’ worksheet and fill in the correct answers.
Fun fact: Mother hens have been known to care for babies from different species, including kittens, ducklings and puppies! It’s no wonder we use the phrase ‘mother hen’ to describe those with strong maternal and protective instincts.
(1) true; (2) false; (3) false; (4) true; (5) true; (6) true; (7) false; (8) true
Vocabulary: reproduce, adult, birth, eggs, hen, rooster, bull, sow, boar, ram, ewe, insemination, incubator
Tip: Introduce and explain each vocabulary word.
Part C: My Life Story
Use the ‘My Life Story’ worksheet and Lifecycle handouts for this part of the lesson. Your child will choose an animal to learn about its life cycle. They will compare the life experience of this animal in a more natural setting versus a farm setting.
Discuss the following stages together:
- how the animal’s life begins
- the changes it goes through during its lifetime
- the ability of adult animals to reproduce by giving birth or laying eggs
- the average lifespan of the animal.
Ask your child to draw pictures and write captions for each stage in the animal’s life cycle. Then use the worksheet to write its life story as a nonfiction recount.
Vocabulary: fairness, factory farms
Tip: Encourage your child to share their thoughts and ideas freely. Ask questions to help them expand on their ideas.
Part D: Reflection (Is it Fair?)
Good mothers exist in many different animal species, including the animals we raise for food. Do you think it’s fair for humans to breed animals and then seperate them from their babies after birth? What could be a better thing to do?
Should humans treat other animals fairly? Why/why not?
fairness (noun): the quality of treating others equally or in a way that is right or reasonable.
What about animals raised on small-scale, organic farms?
Many small-scale farmers in Australia raise their animals in a more natural way, keeping mothers with their offspring for a longer period of time. Often these animals are raised to feed a small number of people, like family members or the local community (e.g. through farmers’ markets).
However, an estimated 95 percent of meat chickens and pigs in Australia are raised in intensive production farms (sometimes called factory farms), while almost all dairy farms seperate mothers from their calves after birth. These farms supply major supermarkets to meet the high demand for meat, dairy and eggs.
40 minutes each
There are four types of animals your child can focus on in Part C. Complete this activity for each of them: cows, pigs, chickens and sheep. Alternatively, your child can pick their favourite animal to focus on instead.