Monday, October 28, 2013

Owl Pellets Take Over- PART ONE!

Look below to see more about what the students found in their pellets!

When I originally wrote the Donor's Choose project for a unit using Owl Pellets for a few of the grade levels, little did I know the fervor with which students would take to this project. Word traveled fast amongst the elementary ranks about the "dissection" that would be taking place in Think Tank. It soon became very clear that the Maury Community needed a new school-wide unit, especially given the sad state of our Maury Monarch Madness this year. ( Poor survival rate reasons still are unknown...)

These are some of our finds! Stay tuned to this blog as students reconstruct their prey!

Before I share too many other pictures, many of you reading this may wonder, "WHAT IS AN OWL PELLET? WHY ARE THEY IMPORTANT?"  Click on those questions and you can complete a virtual dissection. If you are so inspired, please feel free to join us sometime in the next two weeks as we complete our study! Bottom line... owls swollow their prey whole. See? (PS: The following photographs were taken by my dad!)

Prey caught!

Prey partially in mouth

Almost all the way down!

Last but not least, the tail.


 Their digestive tracks cannot process fur, feathers or bones so as part of their process, they cast, or "throw-up" those items in a pellet form 6-10 hours after eating. The process is also thought to clean their system!

4th graders working together to tackle their pellets with bone charts at hand.
The more I thought about it, the more sense it made to use these pellets in all grades, just with varying amounts of in-depth study and use of scientific questioning. ( At least we don't need to keep these guys alive!)

PreSchool Students jumped right in for a look at the "Hands-On Science" Center during choice time.
As it turns out little fingers are excellent replacements for little tweezers! While many PS-K students have used the tweezers, others have pushed them aside to get the small bones with their own hands.  (Don't worry! All pellets are sterilized!)
Turns out little hands are perfect for little bones!


Older students were just as engaged, many choosing to come and dissect more pellets even during recess!

 In addition to the dissection itself, we had Ornithologist Dan Rauch from DC Department of Environment visit our 3rd grades with REAL specimens from the National Zoo! Through his presentation and exploration of the Bald Eagle and Coopers Hawk, students became even more excited about what their owl pellets could tell us about the owls that cast them.
Student does a GREAT Coopers Hawk imitation!
Example of one of SIXTY-SEVEN questions 3rd graders had after Dan Rauch's presentation. I think we may have MANY budding Ornithologists.

This is just the beginning! Stay tuned to the blog for how our Owl Pellet study unfolds. In the coming two weeks students will reconstruct the prey in each of their pellets to learn more about the owl that created it! This is just the beginning!

Until next time,
Picture courtesy of my dad!

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  1. Super Cool! Great to see such work going on in elementary STEM and DCPS! :)

  2. Thank you!!!! Are you in the DC area? Come on over and join the learning! Visitors are ALWAYS welcome. Just email me


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