Sunday, October 20, 2013

Owl Pellet Newbie Reflection

Poor little neglected blog. In between school and work I remembered our DVR was slowly filling up with new seasons of some of my favorite shows. So of course I had to do the right thing and clear up some space by watching irresponsible amounts of TV in one week. Smart right?....

On a different note, our two third grade health classes finished up our owl pellet lessons this past week. Such a fun experience!We started the lesson with a discussion about what an owl pellet is and what we might find in them. In preparing for this lesson I learned a lot! (This was my first ever experience with owl pellets!)

If owl pellets are new to you as well here is a brief summary of what I learned. Turns out that owls can’t digest all the fur, bones, and hard parts of their prey. So certain muscles in the owls stomach cause an owl pellet to form made up of all those hard to digest parts. The owl then regurgitates (the kiddos loved that word!) the pellet leaving it for pint sized scientist, like my own third graders, to dissect. (PS if you didn’t catch that, the pellet isn’t poop! It’s just regurgitated fur and bones. So much less gross right? Ha!)

We were lucky to find ours on sale online a few weeks ago and our budget was just big enough to buy one small owl pellet per child. Rumor has it there actually some farmers in Washington that will let you come on their property and collect your own our pellets firsthand for much cheaper than online sellers. But I wasn't able to find one I could make it to on my time line. We then offered each student a rubber glove and a large paperclip fashioned into a digging tool to take the owl pellets apart. Eventually the kids got so wrapped up in tearing apart their pellets that they dug in bare handed. They were eagerly searching for the biggest skulls and coolest claws and showing them off to one another.   

I had no idea how much the kids would learn from those gross little pellets. They each had identification charts to glue down the bones as they found them. I loved the discussions they had as they sorted through the fur, bones, and random regurgitation. They did an awesome job during the dissection and were extra careful not to break any of their precious discoveries.

Looking back now, if I were to do this in my own classroom in the future I would like to integrate a few more subjects. We did this as part of our health unit while talking about bones and muscles, but online I found so many great resources for using our pellets in teaching about animal adaptations, food chains, and of course science. If you have owl pellets on your schedule anytime soon, here are a few resources I've been thinking about snagging for future use:

Owl Pellet Dissection Worksheet by Ideas by Jivey (This one is free!)
Owl Pellet Dissection Kit by Teaching Miss Lackey (Includes a super cute bone chart!)
All About Owls by Kristen Smith (I'd love to turn owl pellets into an integrated unit on owls next time. Her center are for 1st/2nd grades but look adaptable for 3rd.)

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