Monday, October 8, 2012

Owl Pellets!

Third grade at my school does owl pellet dissection. I hadn't done this since I was a student, sometime in middle school, but it was still every bit as cool in elementary.

One of my 3rd grade teammates ordered owl pellets online. When they arrived, I started teaching animal adaptations. (More on this some other time.)

After a few days, we started learning about owls. I didn't find a great book to introduce this, but I'm sure a classic like Owl Moon or Owl Babies could be tied in. Amazon tells me that Gail Gibbons has an owl book (so I'm sure it's fantastic), and there also appears to be one called Owl Puke: The Book. (If the kids in my class wouldn't gravitate toward that title, I don't know them at all.)

The Barn Owl (Animal Lives)

Next year I want to get my hands on a copy of this one, The Barn Owl: Animal Lives, because it sounds like a great book for vocabulary but also information specific to barn owls (the kind whose pellet we dissected). I have another book in the Animal Lives series, and it's great.

In the meantime, my kids got to explore the National Geographic for Kids' creature feature on Snowy Owls.  Surely every teacher knows about this site already, but if not, seriously, go to NG Kids. It's such a kid-friendly, interactive way to research animals.

Then, we worked through this Kidwings site together to learn more about owl pellets, specifically. This worked well on the SmartBoard, but this could also be a great site for kids to explore individually in the computer lab, especially with a notes guide.

The next day, we reviewed what we remembered and talked through some expectations (what they should expect to find in their pellet, but also what I should expect to see around the room). Then, we watched this Dirty Jobs owl pellet video:

I stopped it right as Mike Rowe held up a foil-wrapped owl pellet, and then I stood in front of them and pulled out a... you guessed it... foil-wrapped owl pellet! The transition was seamless.

And then we got started.

I gave my kids an Owl Pellet Dissection Data Sheet, which you can pick up for free on DropBox.


I also gave them this fantastic Bone Guide, which I found here:

My kids spent the first day exploring their owl pellets and separating bones from fur to start to identify them.
I gave them two small paper plates to separate the two things, but next year some kind of tray would work better.

At the end of the first day, we packed up the fur in one sandwich bag and the bones in another, and stored both in a paper lunch sack with our paper plates until the next day.

On the next day, we finished filling out our data sheets and then had a quick visit from our kindergarten buddies to explain what owl pellets are and show our findings.

Do you dissect owl pellets in your classroom? Any tips for me for next year?


  1. This is why I am a terrible science teacher... all through reading this I was thinking ewww.. I am so squeemish haha but I bet the kids loved it. I am not sure if you are still working on this, but I just recently made Owl S'mores with my kids and had them write about it (from Nicole Shelby on TpT) and they LOVED it... it would be a great addition I bet.
    Third Grade Tidbits

  2. We studied owl pellets in 6th grade and it is by far my all time favortie unit EVER! I'm so jealous that you get to teach this. It looks like your kiddos are going to love this as much as I did!!! I hope third grade is treating you well!
    Mrs. Castro's Class
    P.S. - I will be making your "spice up your writing" poster this weekend in Spanish - boy do my kids need help with their writing, can't wait to use it!!!

  3. Thanks for stopping by my blog! This looks like such a fun activity! I don't teach Science, but I know our kiddos do this at some point in the lower school. I am definitely going to pass this along. I love how you explained the unit and the resources you used - so helpful!

    Another Day in the Silvermines

  4. I'm so glad I browsed your blog! My third graders are about to dissect owl pellets (here in about a month), and I really wasn't sure how I was going to go about it. Thank you SO much for all the wonderful resources!!! You rock. :)

    ~Mrs. K. from The Teacher Garden Blog

  5. Once we finish dissecting the owl pellets, we glue the bones down on a black sheet of paper recreating the skeleton of the animal the owl ate. Some bones are missing, but for the most part students create a pretty complete skeleton! Then we try to determine what animal the owl ate (the jaw bone is the best clue). The finished skeleton gives the activity some closure and is a great "product."

  6. I'm reading the novel Poppy to my class as it is an adventure of an field mouse..... Ties in nicely with ELA standards and Science.... Check it out!!


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