Demonstrates science lessons about owls and raptors. These lessons incorporate reading, hands-on research, and cooperative problem solving, and culminate with a field trip and report.
- Observe teacher dissect owl pellet
- Work with lab partner to dissect owl pellet
- Record results on lab report sheet
- Share results with class and record findings on graph
- Repeat lab later in unit
- Owl pellets, one per pair of students plus extras
- Owl Pellet Bone Chart
- Owl Pellet Lab Report Worksheet printable
- Chart paper and colored markers, for graph
- Black construction paper, one sheet per pair of students plus extras
- Magnifying glasses
- Optional: Tweezers
- Optional: Lab aprons
- Optional: Latex gloves
- Optional: Small pieces of cardboard or oak tag for skeleton assembly
- Optional: Craft glue
- Order one owl pellet per student (plus extras for your own practice and demonstrations) and set aside half of the pellets for the second lab. You can order the pellets from the Carolina Biological Supply Company or another biological supply house.
- Download the Owl Pellet Bone Chart for free from the Carolina Biological Supply Company. Make a class set of copies.
- Make copies of the Owl Pellet Lab Report Worksheet printable. You will need one per student partnership plus a few extras. You may want to create a transparency for modeling purposes.
- Make up a grid for a bar graph on a sheet of chart paper. If you want to title the graph ahead of time, choose something like "What Owls Eat."
- Practice dissecting an owl pellet ahead of time.
About Owl Pellets
Owl pellets contain regurgitated bones, fur, and feathers that owls cannot digest. Pellets can be ordered from a biological supply house. Commercial pellets have been sterilized and arrive individually wrapped in aluminum foil. They can be handled safely with bare hands.
Day 1: Teacher Demonstrates
On the first day, the teacher should demonstrate owl pellet dissection while students observe. The purpose of the demonstration is for students to understand the process, not for the teacher to give away the discoveries.
Step 1: Put a pellet on a piece of black construction paper.
Step 2: Observe the outside of the pellet before opening it. Measure it and record the length and width.
Step 3: Ask students for their predictions about what is inside the pellet. Record students' predictions on a sheet of chart paper.
Step 4: Model how to use the Owl Pellet Lab Report Worksheet printable.
Step 5: Pretend to do the lab.
Step 6: Answer students' questions about the process.
Day 2: Students Do the Lab
Step 1: Set up lab stations while students are out of the room. Put a sheet of black construction paper, a wrapped pellet, toothpicks, rulers, a magnifying glass, and an Owl Pellet Bone Chart at each station. If you are choosing to use tweezers or aprons, provide these as well. Have latex gloves available in case anyone asks for them. I do this during my prep period so the lab is ready to go when students return.
Step 2: Distribute and review the Owl Pellet Lab Report Worksheet printable.
Step 3: Have students write their names on the Owl Pellet Lab Report Worksheet, record their predictions about what they will find in the pellet, and start the lab. Tell students to record their observations as they work.
Step 4: Circulate, encourage, and observe without giving students information about the lab. When students need help, refer them to their lab partner or the Owl Pellet Bone Chart. If they continue to need help, give hints.
Step 5: Stop the lab after 30 minutes. Discuss with the class both their discoveries and the process.
Step 6: Make sure students recorded their discoveries on their Owl Pellet Lab Report Worksheets and listed the number of bones they found for each type of bone depicted on the Owl Pellet Bone Chart. Collect the Owl Pellet Lab Report Worksheets and the Owl Pellet Bone Charts if students made notes on them.
Day 3: Recording the Results
Step 1: Pass back the Owl Pellet Lab Report Worksheets and Owl Pellet Bone Charts. Ask lab partners to share their findings with other pairs.
Step 2: With students' help, record the number of each type of bone found with tally marks on the whiteboard or a blank sheet of chart paper.
Step 3: With students' help, transfer the tally marks to the bar graph.
Step 4: Ask students for statements they could make based on data. For example, ask students:
- What do we know about what owls eat?
- Were our predictions accurate? Refer to class predictions on the chart paper.
- Was there anything in our data that surprised you?
- When we do this lab again, what do you think we'll find?
Supporting All Learners
I do the lab first to reassure students who are timid or hesitant about handling owl pellets. I'm enthusiastic but calm, and tell students this work is what scientists do. My positive attitude sets the tone for the lab. I don't force participation. Since we do the lab twice, usually all students participate in one or both labs.
Gluing Skeletons Together
Some students may want to use the Owl Pellet Bone Chart to piece together skeletons and glue them to cardboard with craft glue. Be prepared for creative skeletons.
Wild Owl Pellets
Depending on where you live, students may be able to find owl pellets around the base of trees where owls nest. Since these owl pellets have not been sterilized, they contain bacteria. Tell students to ask an adult to help them collect the owl pellet. Ask them to put the pellet in a zippered baggy if they bring it to school to share. DO NOT dissect unsterilized owl pellets.
- Dissect an owl pellet and record findings on a lab report worksheet
- Share lab results with class
- Transfer data to a bar graph
- Repeat the lab after one or two weeks
When you think about your teaching, ask yourself:
- Did I set a positive, calm tone during the demonstration?
- Did I establish clear expectations so that most students completed the lab without hesitancy?
- Did I encourage collaboration?
- Did I assist in analyzing data?
- Did I give too much information?
- Were there any misconceptions that I want to clarify later on?
- Participate in the lab?
- Organize themselves and their materials?
- Ask questions?
- Stay on-task?
- Help one another?
- Gather and record data?
- Draw conclusions and interpret data?
- Show growth from first to second lab?