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Owl Pellets

May 19, 2012

Dissecting owl pellet

We did it!  We donned our gloves and held our breath and dissected 3 owl pellets!  I remember doing this as a middle school aged child and I loved it so much that I wanted my kids to get the experience, too.  So, when a fellow Charlotte Mason mom asked if we wanted to go in together to purchase “things” to dissect – owl pellets being one of them – I answered with a resounding “Yes!”  A few weeks later…rodent fur and bones were being dropped into little cardboard bowls at the dissecting table.

The Process First, we learned about owls and exactly what an owl pellet was.  Contrary to popular belief, an owl pellet is a regurgitation of items the owl cannot digest – most everyone thinks it’s poop.  Yuck!  This means that all the bones, fur, feathers, and teeth that the owl can’t “stomach” gets thrown back up via a neat little package.  If you buy them from a science lab you get the ones that have been sterilized, or you can likely find them in the forest or nearby barn.

Next, we made sure to be good scientists and measure our pellets and find out what our senses thought about them.  (My oldest son didn’t want to touch the thing, but he was eventually persuaded by the “principal”.)  Observations being finished, we dug in!  Using tweezers and loooong toothpick-like probes, we slowly broke into the pellets and began to find rodent skulls and ribs and scapulas.  Two of the three children were truly amazed by this.  Parts of the pellet were too tough for the instruments alone so we soaked them in water.  That, my friends, produced a nasty smell.  I was ready to be done at this point in the game, but the kids were troopers and lead on.

Finally, once all the picking was finished, we allowed the bones to air dry and then glued them onto black construction paper in an orderly fashion.  It was amazing how tiny, in length as well as in girth, the little bones could be.  Our God was particular when creating these fragile, sometimes paper-thin bones for even the tiniest of creatures!

The very last step was to thoroughly clean up (which I did most of to be sure it was done properly).  Now, we just need to decide where to keep our treasures – ewwwww!

The Review If I had it to do over again, I would make sure everyone participating was at least 7 years of age.  That being said, my most enthusiastic participant was only 6, however, I chose age 7 because the six year old had trouble getting the bones out in one piece which frustrated him.  Therefore, I wound up helping him more so he wouldn’t get frustrated which hindered my being able to “teach” the others about what they were discovering.  If my memory serves me correctly, I didn’t do this myself in public school until 7th grade.

All in all, we had a great time and (most) of us are anxious for the next dissecting challenge!


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