Saturday, July 7, 2012

Owl Pellet Dissection: Gross Science Fun

Back in February we "rowed" Owl Moon by Jane Yolen. (Can you tell I'm working through a backlog of posts and pictures?)

We did this Five in A Row unit three years ago and had so much fun with it. Since the girls were so little at the time, they don't remember most of what we did, so we are re-rowing it for them.

One of our favorite activities we did with this unit was owl pellet dissection...some truly gross science fun!

An owl pellet is the regurgitated contents of an owl's tummy. Nice, right? The owl coughs the pellet up after digesting his meal, and it contains the bones of its prey. In fact, the bones of an entire skeleton can often be found in a single pellet.

Don't worry...we don't venture into the woods and collect these little gems ourselves. I buy them heat-sterilized and packaged at my local school supply store. You can also order them online from school science lab supply companies and on Amazon.

The first time we dissected these I purchased the kit pictured below. At that time it included one sterilized owl pellet and an information-packed little book that I found extremely helpful. (I'm not sure if the product link below contains an owl pellet.)

The book, aptly titled Owl Puke, contains handy, kid-friendly diagrams that aid you in identifying the different bones you find, and in figuring out what kind of varmint the owl had for dinner. (It's typically either a bird or some type of mouse, mole, or other rodent. This just keeps getting better doesn't it?)

All joking aside, dissecting the pellet isn't really all that bad, and this comes from someone who is somewhat squeamish around certain kinds of grossness. I highly recommend owl pellet dissection as a rich, hands-on learning experience.

From our previous owl pellet experience I learned a couple of things:

1. Owl pellet dissection can get messy (i.e. bits of fur tend to go everywhere). But the mess can be controlled as long as you contain the pellets in something, such as a plastic container or tray, while you're working with them. Also consider spreading a disposable plastic tablecloth or newspaper on top of your work area for easy clean-up.

2. Owl pellet dissection can take awhile to finish. It takes a long time to pick out all of those bones, so if you want to try to piece together a skeleton, or even a partial one, plan on letting your children work on their pellets a little bit each day for a few days.

3. At least one of your children will more than likely put up a fuss when the time comes to dispose of the dissected pellets. I'll let a lot of different things go on permanent display on our nature table, but I had to draw the line at owl pellet.

We recorded our findings with this nifty Owl Pellet Dissection page courtesy of The Notebooking Fairy. While you're there check out the other owl notebooking pages she has created.

In my next post I'll list all of our owl resources, links to printables, and photos of our Owl Lapbooks.
(Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links.)

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