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.)
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: http://www.biologycorner.com/
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?