HACkschool: Owl Pellet Dissection

Posted on Posted in Homeschooling

“You know what’s been missing from our backyard friend play? Animal barf.”

Okay that’s not exactly the train of thought that led us to owl pellet dissection. I figured hands-on animal science (in which no animals are harmed) would be a hit and I have to say, it was cool!

We ordered our kits from here at a great price and it came with the owl pellet, bone diagram, tweezers, and pokey stick (technical scientific term). We supplied the trash bag table topper, paper plates, and latex gloves.

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I explained to the kids what an owl pellet is (Man, science can be so cool!) and we dove in, sharing observations as we went along.

“Owls are birds of prey which means they hunt for live food. They are nocturnal so they swoop down at night snatch up smaller birds and rodents like mice. Since birds don’t have teeth, they swallow their prey whole and digest all the good meaty parts. But they can’t digest the fur, feathers, and bones, so they puke those parts back up in a compact pellet. Now as scientists, what can we learn by dissecting these pellets? As you dissect yours, tell us what you observe!”

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“My owl ate a mammal because I see teeth and fur instead of feathers. This is like what the anthropologists and paleontologists do when they examine fossil remains and learn about the creatures’ lives!”

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The kids dissected and checked their diagram to orient the bones they were finding. Then they ran off and played more in the backyard whenever their attention waned. A time later, some returned to dissect more. That is one of the many things I love about homeschooling – they are not forced to sit and focus for an arbitrary amount of time that robs their learning experiences of joy. They all left that day, partially digested prey in hand (well, in ziplock bag, in hand), smiles on their faces. The experience was tactile, meaningful, and will stay with them.

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